Coronavirus alert: Airport authorities asked to step up vigil on travellers

The health ministry has alerted airport authorities to keep a strict vigil on travellers in view of the outbreak of a deadly coronavirus in China that has infected at least 571 people and killed 17 so far.

There are 1,200 Indian medical students studying in Wuhan, the epicentre of new virus and many of them are expected to travel to India between January 25 and February 8, as Chinese New Year holiday season begins, officials said.

“Once they (the students) land they will remain under surveillance even if they don’t show any symptoms,” Sujeet K Singh, director at National Centre for Disease Control, said.

The Centre is also expected to come up with an exhaustive set of guidelines for treatment, management and prevention of the mysterious virus for the healthcare authorities, officials said. An Indian national in Saudi Arabia is reported to have tested positive for the virus on Thursday.

To be sure, India began taking precautionary steps by screening travellers at seven international airports and issued a travel advisory for citizens visiting China.

Officials said India is leaving no stone unturned to combat the virus that the World Health Organisation may soon declare “a public health emergency of international concern”.

WHO held a meeting Wednesday but delayed its decision due to a lack of information. It defines a public health emergency of international concern as “an extraordinary event” that constitutes a “public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease” and “potentially require a coordinated international response”. Previous emergencies have included Ebola, Zika and H1N1.

“The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence

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The Economic Times
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