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Novel coronavirus makes landfall in India

Abstarct virus strain model of Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV with text on blue background. Virus Pandemic Protection Concept.

India has witnessed its first confirmed case of novel coronavirus, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has announced. 

The novel coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province. The disease has spread throughout mainland China and resulted in 7,771 infections and 170 deaths at the time of writing. 

Outside of China, cases have been reported in nations including Australia, Canada, Cambodia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Korea, the United States, and Vietnam. India joins their ranks, as a female student studying at Wuhan University has tested positive for novel coronavirus in Kerala. “The patient is stable and is being closely monitored,” reported the Union Health Ministry. 

A total of 806 people are under observation in Kerala. In light of the situation, state health minister K. K. Shailaja convened “a meeting with health experts to ensure that there is no spread” of the novel coronavirus, with individuals returning to Kerala from Wuhan being closely monitored. 

In response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Centre has issued a travel advisory urging citizens to refrain from travelling to China and has outlined a series of steps to be taken by those who potentially have been exposed to the disease. These include a fourteen-day isolation period for those who have travelled to China in the preceding fifteen days or who potentially have had contact with a novel coronavirus-infected individual.

Plans have been announced for the evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan. According to reports, around 300 Indians – mostly medical students – will be repatriated from the city. Upon their return, they will be quarantined in isolation wards established by the Union Ministries of Defence and Labour and Employment and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Isolation periods will last for a minimum of fourteen days; suspected cases will be quarantined for 28 days. The wards in question are being set up in Manesar and outer areas of the National Capital Region (NCR). Chinese authorities will only permit the repatriation of individuals who do not display novel coronavirus symptoms. 

“We are constantly following up with the India’s embassy in China to stay updated on the situation,” commented Preeti Sudan, a secretary in the Union Health Ministry. Meanwhile, testing of samples is taking place at the National Institute of Virology in Pune, where an Indian Council of Medical Research official has said “we have enough testing kits and are in the process of expanding the capacity [5,000 samples at present]. Four more labs have been designated to test samples which would be expanded to ten, if required.”

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