The virus spreads.

The virus spreads.

2 fresh cases in Kerala, new app to track COVID-19; India cancels all visas

WHO declares Covid-19 a pandemic, but says no change in measures

Agency Report | Thiruvananthapuram/Jammu/Geneva | 12 March, 2020 | 11:20 PM

A 76-year-old man who died in north Karnataka's Kalaburagi district tested positive for novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Health Minister B Sriramulu says. The victim returned to India on February 29 after a month-long stay in Saudi Arabia and was screened on arrival at Hyderabad airport. He displayed no symptoms at that time.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday launched a new app to track the COVID-19 guidelines of the Kerala Health Department and said that two fresh cases of coronavirus cases have been reported.

With this the total number of positive cases touched 16.

“One person who came from Dubai and now in isolation at Kannur turned positive. The second case that turned positive today was a person who came from Qatar and now in Thrissur,” said Vijayan to the media.

“We have another highly suspect case in Thiruvananthapuram, who arrived from Italy, but the final result is awaited,” added Vijayan.

He said 3,910 people are under observation at their homes, while 270 at various hospitals in the state.

The new mobile app can be downloaded from the App store and will get all the details of COVID-19. This facility would be available on ordinary mobile phones through SMS alerts.

Everyone should follow the guidelines of out Health Department and should be aware of the nature of this virus. If anyone feels sick, rather than rushing to the hospitals, they should get in touch with the health authorities, who will do the needful. We have also launched six help lines,” said Vijayan.

Everyone should behave responsibly otherwise situation can be out of control, he added.

The health authorities stepped up screening at the four airports in the state and at the Cochin airport on Thursday. 3,135 passengers who landed here from 30 international flights were screened and out of those 18 had symptoms. They have been asked to seek treatment from the hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Congress-led opposition that met here decided to take up the pitfalls committed by the Kerala government and pointed out that the state failed to act on the advisory that came out on February 26, which directed state governments to screen all those who come from countries like Italy.

Three people in a family who arrived from Italy at the Cochin airport on February 29th, after a week turned positive have now been identified as the ones who are responsible for the present turn of events.

Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala slammed State Health Minister K.K. Shailaja by saying that she has now developed a mania for holding number of press conferences every day.

“We fail to understand what is she up to and we feel she is interested in building her image, when she should be doing her job with utmost seriousness,” said Chennithala.

Responding to it, Shailaja said such irresponsible statements will be a dent to the massive efforts of the various health professionals.

“It’s most unfortunate that when the state is passing through tough times, none should attempt to score political brownie points. It’s better that I don’t speak on such things,” added Vijayan.

Those people who are coming from abroad will now be categorised into three categories and it includes Category A – those with slight fever and cough will be asked to remain in isolation in their homes for 28 days.

Category B would include those with running temperature and throat pain, pregnant women, all those above age 60 and those with serious ailments. All such people should listen to the guidelines of the medical professionals and act accordingly.

Category C would include all those with high temperature, throat pain, breathing difficulties and would be isolated in various hospitals.

Meanwhile the State Police chief Loknath Behra said that the state police also would provide a helping hand to locate and identify all those who arrive from countries where COVID-19 is raging.

At Pathanamthitta, presently the worst affected, on Thursday wore a deserted look and one of the branches of State Bank of India downed its shutters after it was identified that one of the coronavirus positive patient had mingled with the staff members, who are now under observation.

Even before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared novel coronavirus as a pandemic, J&K administration had taken a slew of measures to check the spread of the dreaded virus.

All educational institutions, including schools, colleges, universities and coaching centres, were closed across J&K on Wednesday.

Crowded places like cinema halls and other large gatherings have also been banned.

After the WHO declared coronavirus as a pandemic involving more than 100 countries late on Wednesday, the UT administration has further raised its walls to prevent the entry of the deadly virus.

As many as 1,433 travellers and persons in contact with suspected cases have been put under surveillance. Of these, 1,178 are in home quarantine, 17 in hospitals, 80 in home surveillance. A total of 158 persons have completed their 28-day surveillance period.

Seventy-four samples have been sent for testing, of which 29 have tested negative, one positive while the results of the remaining 44 are awaited.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has ordered that all incoming international travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.

“This will come into effect from 5:30 p.m. on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure,” the order said.

The advisory further said that all passengers having travel history to coronavirus affected countries are advised to undergo self-imposed quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their arrival.

“People should self declare about their foreign travel history,” the advisory said.

According to a bulletin issued by the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, coronavirus lab testing facilities have been started at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar, and Government Medical College, Jammu.

In addition, one more lab has been made operational at the Srinagar Medical College on Thursday.

Control rooms and surveillance teams have been constituted across all the districts of the UT to meet any eventuality.

Adequate isolation rooms and quarantine facilities have been kept ready in all the medical colleges, district hospitals and other institutions across the UT for quarantine and treatment of the infected patients/suspected cases.

The bulletin said that the number of N-95 masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits have been made available for the medical and other associated staff.

“The government strongly urges all social, religious and political organisations to avoid large gatherings. While there is no need to panic, public is advised to maintain social distancing, avoid unnecessary travel and use of public transport and also take basic precautions, including personal hygiene, frequent hand washing with soap and observing coughing and sneezing etiquettes.

“If anyone has fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, he/she should seek medical help at the earliest,” the bulletin said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday declared coronavirus disease as a pandemic, with its chief expressed his “deep concern” over “alarming levels of inaction” in combating the virus spread.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a press conference at headquarters here, said that said the number of cases outside China had increased 13-fold over the past two weeks, and thus the coronavirus outbreak qualified as a pandemic, or a disease spreading in multiple countries around the world simultaneously.

“We have therefore made the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

The WHO chief also stressed that pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly, as the word, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” said Ghebreyesus.

In the press conference, he wondered if the world have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. “We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” Ghebreyesus said.

He, however, noted that just looking at the number of COVID19 cases and the number of countries affected did not tell the full story. According to the WHO, of the 118,000 Covid-19 cases reported in 114 countries, more than 90 per cent of cases are in just four countries, and the numbers of cases have significantly declined in two – China and South Korea.

The WHO also stated that 81 countries have not reported any COVID19 cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” said Ghebreyesus.

He also said that if countries could detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilise their people in the response, then cluster and community transmission could be prevented.

The WHO said some countries which are dealing with Covid-19 either have lack of capacity and resources or lack of resolve. It warned the countries across the world to be ready with hospitals and protect and train health workers to deal with the situation.

“I remind all countries that we are calling on you to activate & scale up your emergency response mechanisms communicate with your people about the risks & how they can protect themselves find, isolate, test & treat every COVID19 case & trace every contact,” said Ghebreyesus.

The WHO also suggested that all countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic and social disruption and respecting human rights. On January 30, the world health body had declared the disease as Public Health Emergency of International concern after it brought China to a lockdown with more than 7,000 confirmed cases, including 1,370 critical cases and 170 deaths.

Italy and Iran have been reported as worst-hit with the Covid-19 with deaths of 168 more people in Italy in the past 24 hours, the highest toll in a single day since the start of the outbreak in the country.

A pandemic is the “worldwide spread of a new disease”, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which means that nearly every human being on Earth — close to 8 billion — is now susceptible to coronavirus (Covid-19).

“81 countries have not reported any #COVID19 cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less. We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” the WHO tweeted.

Pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population.

Pandemics, according to their classical definition, are epidemics that cross international boundaries and affect a large number of people worldwide.

There are now over 118,000 cases of Covid-19 spread across 114 countries around the world. The disease has already claimed over 4,000 lives.

“If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of #COVID19 cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission,” the global health body said in a tweet.

The WHO had classified the novel coronavirus as a global public health emergency on January 30.

Countries around the world, including the US, have already been leaning on pandemic preparedness plans to respond to the outbreaks of coronavirus.

The last time the WHO declared a pandemic was during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, which infected nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

The WHO, however, was later criticised for raising public alarm when the virus turned out to be not very lethal. H1N1 now returns seasonally and is part of the annual vaccine preparations.

SARS was not considered a pandemic, despite affecting people in 26 countries, and neither was MERS.

“As pandemic viruses emerge, countries and regions face different risks at different times. For that reason, countries are strongly advised to develop their own national risk assessments based on local circumstances, taking into consideration the information provided by the global assessments produced by WHO,” according to the global health organisation.

Each pandemic is different and, until a virus starts circulating, it is impossible to predict its full effects.

Stepping up border control measures with Covid-19 cases on the rise, India on Wednesday cancelled all visas, except for a few official categories, till April 15. Even outgoing travel is being cautioned against and a minimum of 14 days’ quarantine will be mandatory.

An official statement said all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment, and project visas stand suspended till April 15. This will come into effect from 12 am GMT on March 13 at the port of departure.

The visa-free travel facility granted to OCI card holders has also been kept in abeyance till April 15. Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for a compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian mission. This would essentially curb the inflow of foreign nationals into the country with visa controls.

All incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days. All these measures are applicable from March 13.

Incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, are advised to avoid non-essential travel and have been informed that they can be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days on their arrival in India.

International traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated check posts with robust screening facilities. These will be notified separately by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

A provision has been made for testing primarily for students/compassionate cases in Italy and collection for samples to be organised accordingly. Those tested negative will be allowed to travel and will be quarantined on arrival in India for 14 days. (IANS)