Novel Coronavirus: India reviews its preparedness

While no Coronavirus case has been detected in the country, the situation is being closely monitored at the highest level for adequate preparedness. NCDC Call Centre number (+91-11-23978046) made has been made operational

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New Delhi: Recently a high-level review meeting was held with senior officers of the Health Ministry, ICMR and NCDC in attendance to analyse the current situation, preparedness and steps being taken for prevention and management of Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) in India.

The Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan who oversaw the preparations, remarked, “The situation is being closely monitored at the highest level for adequate preparedness. All the officials of my Ministry, concerned departments and States/UTs have been put on high alert for Novel Coronavirus. We are taking all required possible precautions to manage all possible scenarios.”

Dr Vardhan is also in regular contact with Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO SEARO for technical support and guidance in the matter. He has spoken to Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and assured all support for screening at the border with Nepal, where a confirmed nCoV case has been reported. He is also writing to the Chief Ministers of States requesting for their personal intervention to review the State preparedness for control and management of nCoV.

The Union Health Minister has directed for multidisciplinary central teams to be formed and sent to the seven states where thermal screening is being done at the seven designated airports (New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi). The central team shall consist of a public health expert, a clinician and a microbiologist. They shall review the end-to-end preparedness for management and control of nCoV in the states including that at the airports, for thermal screening and transferring of patients to hospitals for isolation, and shall also visit the tertiary hospitals attached to the airports for reviewing the isolation wards and availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and masks etc.

The teams shall also review whether the infection control, surveillance and other guidelines are being followed. The teams shall coordinate with the State Health Secretaries to explore all avenues for further supporting and strengthening the states’ preparedness.

Under directions by Dr Harsh Vardhan, a 24×7 NCDC Call Centre (+91-11-23978046) has been made operational. The said Call Centre will monitor the list of contacts furnished by MEA; provide details of district and state surveillance officers to those who seek them; and in case of any clinical query, direct the concerned to the relevant Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) officer.

The passengers who have a travel history to China since 1st January 2020  have been asked to come forward for self-reporting to the nearest health facility if they experience any symptoms such as fever, cough, respiratory distress etc., and also inform their treating doctor.

While no nCoV case has been detected in the country so far, eleven persons have been put under observation; out of samples taken from these individuals, samples of four passengers have been confirmed to be negative for nCoV by the ICMR-NIV Pune lab. He added that timely measures and promptness of the officials of Union Health Ministry has resulted into vigilant actions. He also commended the media for creating awareness among the people.

The National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune is fully geared up to test samples of nCoV. Ten other laboratories under Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s Viral Research and Diagnostics Laboratories (VRDL) network are also equipped to test such samples, if a need arises. Adequate stock of PPE is being maintained by Medical Stores Organization for airports, hospitals and laboratory use.

20,844 passengers from 96 flights screened

As on 24th January, 20,844 passengers from 96 flights have been screened for Novel Coronavirus symptoms. No nCoV case has been detected in the country so far. However, three persons have been put under observation.

A travel advisory has been extended to 12 more airports in addition to the current seven. National Institute of Virology, Pune is fully geared up to test samples of nCoV. Ten other laboratories under Indian Council of Medical Research’s Viral Research and Diagnostics Laboratories network are also equipped to test such samples, if a need arises.

The other measures taken by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare are:

  • A travel advisory was issued on 17th January and put up on Ministry’s website and also on the Twitter handle for wider circulation.

  • Secretary (HFW) has written to the States/UTs to review their preparedness, identify gaps and strengthen core capacities in the area of surveillance, laboratory support infection prevention & control, logistics, risk communication and in particular, hospital preparedness in terms of isolation and ventilator management of critically ill patients of SARI.

  • Thermal screening is being done at the International airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin. MoCA has asked airlines to follow International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on flights originating from China and disembarking in India. MoCA has instructed for in-flight announcements for India bound flights.

  • Port and Airport Health Organizations have been sensitized. The Airport Health Organizations at the airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochinhave put up signages at prominent locations informing the public about self-reporting of illness. Immigration officers manning the counters have been sensitized at these airports. Health Minsitry has written to State Governments of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka to review and strengthen preparedness measures at designated airports.