Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, has urged India to respond calmly to the novel coronavirus outbreak in China. At the time of writing, more than 6,000 individuals are infected and the death toll exceeds 100.
The coronavirus outbreak has sparked global panic, with the Government of India planning evacuations of the country’s citizens who remain in the country. The outbreak originated in the city of Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province. Cases have been reported in multiple countries.
Vardhan urged calm and affirmed that no cases of coronavirus have been detected in India hitherto. “I request all people of the country not to panic as novel coronavirus has not come to India,” he said. “We are cautioned and making all proactive preventive measures to keep our people safe. Anybody who is showing slight symptoms of flu is being kept under isolation. This does not mean that they are a case of coronavirus. These are just suspected ones and should be quarantined for some time for medical care.
“We are sending all suspected cases to the National Institute of Virology, Pune for testing. And so far all the results have come negative.”
At the time of writing, India is awaiting clearance from the Chinese government in order to proceed with an evacuation of its citizens. As reported in The Economic Times, an Air India Boeing 747 with a 420-person capacity is on standby in Mumbai to evacuate the 250-300 Indian citizens within Wuhan.
Vardhan assured citizens that the Government is vigilant amidst the coronavirus outbreak – to the level of the Prime Minister’s Office. “Even the Prime Minister had been monitoring the preparedness closely despite being busy in Republic Day [celebrations],” he said. “Our Health and Special Secretaries are in contact with [the] Ministries of Home, External Affairs, Aviation and Shipping. I have personally written to the Chief Ministers of all states to stay alert. Various advisories have been issued to the authorities concerned of all states and union territories.”
The Minister pointed to past disease outbreaks abroad to stimulate confidence that the country is well-prepared for the potential spread of conditions to India. “Last year, we stopped the Ebola virus from entering India,” he noted. “Similarly this year, with all precautionary measures taken by the government, we will stop this new coronavirus disease from entering the country.” As such, he has asserted, “India is the first country in the world to have taken all precautionary measures at war footage to keep the novel coronavirus out of the country.”
Nonetheless, Vardhan has urged vigilance from the citizenry. “I appeal to all citizens of the country that if they or someone from their family and friends have a history of being in China within one month or in contact with the person who has come from China, if they are showing symptoms such as sore throat, cough or cold, they should call us on the helpline number. We will take the mobile number with the help of the surveillance team and will get you checked up, guide you correctly and refer you to the correct place.”