India witnesses community transmission of coronavirus

NEW DELHI, MAR 5 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 3/5/2020 9:03:55 AM IST

Vardhan posts Parl on preparations

In a major public health challenge for the government, India has observed community transmission of novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID 19) with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informing both Houses of Parliament of the status of preparedness to contain the virus.

Although there was no official word, the community transmission is reported to be seen in Agra where six family members of a Delhi patient were found positive on Wednesday.

“We have made district collectors the nodal officers for the containment efforts. We have also told states to form rapid response teams. A major challenge is to prevent containment in Agra where six family members were infected by one positive patient from Delhi. The cluster containment approach would be needed to prevent community cases,” Vardhan said in Rajya Sabha where he told the House that so far India had seen 29 positive COVID cases of which 26 are new. Three previous Kerala cases are stable and infection-free as of now.

“India is taking every step to prevent the virus from spreading,” the Minister said in his statement in Parliament. At present 92 samples are under test. The minister said in Parliament that since March 4 universal screening of all passengers from air and sea route is being done. “Every passenger will be screened and will have to fill up a self-declaration form furnishing their own addresses and particulars, phone numbers and other specifics to enable contact with them,” said Vardhan. He said states were maintaining a basic stock of N95 masks.

“As of now, 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the country. Of these, three (from Kerala) have recovered and have been discharged. Universal screening has been mandated since March 4 and has started in most airports from Wednesday evening,” the minister said, adding it should stabilise on Thursday with additional staff being provided by the states. Health ministry special secretary Sanjeeva Kumar, meanwhile, said, “In addition to COVID 19 cases related to travel, some cases of community transmission have also been observed. It has been decided to involve district collectors and states have been asked to form rapid response teams at the district, block and village levels.”

The minister told Parliament that 3,542 samples had been sent for testing, of which 29 had been found positive for COVID-19 till now; testing of 92 samples is in process and 23 samples are being reconfirmed.

Vardhan said in Parliament that the challenge areas included contact tracing of infected persons, evacuating stranded Indian pilgrims and people from heavily-infected Iran and cluster containment to check community transmission.

India is in touch with Iran to set up a screening lab in Tehran to test Indian nationals before bringing them back, Vardhan said.

Over six lakh people have so far been screened by India for COVID, the minister said, adding that laboratory strength for testing samples was being augmented with NIV, Pune, the apex lab.

States have been told to prepare for containment and set up isolation and quarantine facilities.


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