Second coronavirus case in India

NEW DELHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: India on Sunday reported its second coronavirus case with another student who had returned to Kerala from Wuhan testing positive, while 323 more Indians and seven Maldivians were brought back by air from the Chinese city, the epicentre of the outbreak, taking the number of evacuees to 654.

The government also announced the temporary suspension of the e-visa facility for Chinese travellers and foreigners residing in the neighbouring country and issued a fresh advisory saying anyone with travel history to China since January 15 can be quarantined.

The developments came as the virus, which emerged in early December and traced to a market in Hubei capital Wuhan that sold wild animals, has killed more than 300 people in China, infected over 14,000 others and spread to 25 countries. 

Both the cases in India have been reported in Kerala, where nearly 2,000 people are under observation in hospitals and homes. The second patient is also a student from Wuhan in China. The patient had returned to Kerala on January 24, Kerala government said in a statement. Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja said the condition of the student, currently admitted to the isolation ward at the Alapuzha Medical College Hospital, was “stable”.

The first case was reported from Thrissur on Thursday with a woman medical student who returned from Wuhan testing positive for the infection. Since the coronavirus outbreak in China, Kerala, which is thickly populated, has been on high alert as a large number of students from the state are studying in the University of Wuhan.

A second Air India flight in as many days evacuated 330 passengers, including seven Maldives citizens from Wuhan . Of these, 300, including Maldives citizens, have been housed at ITBP Chawla Camp and 30 are in the Army’s Manesar facility.

They are being effectively monitored, the health ministry said. On Saturday, 324 Indians were brought back from Wuhan and admitted to the quarantine facilities set up by the Army and the ITBP, though none of them have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to officials.

A video shared by government officials on Sunday showed a group of six students dancing and taking selfies and videos inside the Manesar facility. “The students are happy as they have been evacuated. You can see them dancing and making videos even though they have their face masks on,” said an official. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in a tweet on Sunday, “7 Maldivians brought back with 323 Indians from Wuhan on the second @airindiain flight today. #NeighbourhoodFirst at work again.”

Five doctors from the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital, who were onboard the first flight, were also present in the second flight, an Air India spokesperson said. Out of the 324 people that were evacuated through first Air India flight, 56, 53 and 42 were from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, respectively. In its fresh advisory, the Health Ministry asked people to refrain from travelling to China in view of coronavirus outbreak and said anyone with travel history of China since January 15 could be quarantined.

The decision of issuing a new travel advisory was taken at a high-level review meeting held by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba. As on Sunday, 58,658 passengers from 445 flights have been screened for nCoV symptom. A total of 142 symptomatic travellers picked up by the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) have been referred to the isolation facilities.

As many as 130 samples have been tested of which 128 have been found to be negative so far, the Health Ministry said. While airlines across the globe have suspended or curtailed operations to China, a number of countries have temporarily stopped issuing of visas to Chinese nationals. Some like the US have even imposed travel ban on visitors from China.

The Indian embassy in Beijing announced that travel to India on e-visas stands temporarily suspended with immediate effect “due to certain current developments”. “This applies to holders of Chinese passports and applicants of other nationalities residing in the People’s Republic of China. Holders of already issued e-visas may note that these are no longer valid,” it said.

The e-visa facility for Chinese nationals was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to China in 2015 as a confidence building measure as well as an attempt to ease visa restrictions to attract more Chinese tourists.

The US has imposed a 14-day travel ban on all visitors from China, regardless of their nationality. Singapore has stopped issuing all types of visas to Chinese travellers, while Vietnam has halted tourist visas.

Russia said Saturday it would halt visa-free tourism for Chinese nationals and also stop issuing them work visas. It had already stopped issuing electronic visas to Chinese nationals. Similar visa restrictions have been imposed by the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and the African nation of Mozambique.

The Philippines on Sunday reported the first death outside China from the deadly virus. Due to the outbreak, IndiGo has suspended all three flights between India and China. Air India has suspended its Delhi-Shanghai flight and curtailed the flight operations on the Delhi-Hong Kong route. Only these two Indian carriers fly to China.

Meanwhile, arrangements have been made at ESIC Medical College of Alwar in Rajathan to quarantine people who have returned from China. Ravi Sharma, a state health department official coordinating with the Centre, said 300 beds have been prepared in two hostels and adequate staff has been deployed.

Deputy CMHO, Alwar, Dr Chhabil Kumar said the passengers will be quarantined and kept under observation for 28 days. Three persons suspected to have symptoms of coronavirus were admitted to SMS Government Hospital in Jaipur, Dr D S Meena, Superintendent of the hospital, said. He said that the patients have been kept in isolation.

Of the five patients suspected to have symptoms of coronavirus in Haryana in recent days, one test result has come out as negative, a senior health department official said here on Sunday.

All the five patients had recently travelled to China, Director General, Health Services, Haryana, Dr Suraj Bhan Kamboj told PTI over phone. The samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune and the reports of the other four patients are awaited, he said. Besides, there are 24 other people hailing from Haryana who do not have any symptoms, but are under observation of the health authorities in view of their recent travel history to China. PTI