Union Ministers S Jaishankar, Harsh Vardhan, Hardeep Singh Puri and  Ashwini Kumar Choubey during the meeting of Group of Ministers (GoM) to review the steps for prevention of the spread of novel coronavirus, in New Delhi on February 13, 2020.
Union Ministers S Jaishankar, Harsh Vardhan, Hardeep Singh Puri and Ashwini Kumar Choubey during the meeting of Group of Ministers (GoM) to review the steps for prevention of the spread of novel coronavirus, in New Delhi on February 13, 2020.

Political commitment at highest level in response on COVID-19: Harsh Vardhan

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, February 14, 2020

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday that political commitment at the highest levels of the Government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was leading the government’s response against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“India is prepared through its various timely measures and sturdy systems of surveillance for novel coronavirus,” the Minister said at a press conference on the status update, actions taken and preparedness on the disease.

Harsh Vardhan stated that a high-level Group of Ministers consisting of Minister of External Affairs, Minister of Civil Aviation, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Minister of State for Shipping and Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare has been constituted under his chaimanship to monitor the situation.

Regular reviews are held with all related Ministries of Health, Defence, External Affairs, Civil Aviation, Home, Textiles, Pharmaceuticals, Commerce, Panchayati Raj and other officials including State Chief Secretaries.

“We have good and effective coordination among ministries, robust surveillance system, network of laboratories to support diagnosis, upgraded medical facilities, trained health workforce and media presence that can reach even remote areas. We have put all these resources at our disposal to prevent/contain the outbreak of novel coronavirus in India,” he stated.

In addition to the ministerial meetings, a video conference is being held every other day with the states to review their preparedness and actions.

Harsh Vardhan stated that all Ministries and States have done commendable work, in particular Kerala, which has put up a sturdy system of surveillance.

Elaborating measures taken by the Government, he said Advisories/ Guidelines have been issued to the States on surveillance, sample collection, packaging and transportation, infection prevention and control, and clinical management.

In fact, India was possibly the first country to issue a travel advisory on January 17 itself. All these guidance documents are available on the Health Ministry website. The travel advisory is being updated as per the evolving situation.

He said the surveillance at Points of Entry (PoE) is continuing at 21 Airports, 12 major ports, 65 minor ports and at 6 land crossings. So far at the airports a cumulative of 2, 51, 447 persons (2315 flights) have been screened, 3 suspected cases and 161 contacts have been identified.

As many as 5491 passengers and 285 crew have been screened at major and minor ports respectively. Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) is carrying out community through surveillance of passengers travelling from China, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.

A total of 15991 people are being followed up for a period of 28 days of which 3058 have completed 28 days of the observation period. Suspect cases numbering 497 have been isolated. ICMR is providing the Laboratory support with NIV, Pune as the nodal laboratory and 14 other network laboratories. This can be expanded to include 50 laboratories, if the situation so demands.

So far, 1071 samples have been tested, out of which 1068 were found negative and only 3 have tested positive in Kerala. In addition, clinical samples of the 654 evacuees at Manesar and ITBP camps have also been tested and all of them were found to be negative.

All the 3 positive cases from Kerala are students from Wuhan, Hubei, China. The observation was started from January 28 and they were reported positive on February 3 by NIV, Pune. States have been asked to ensure adequate provisions for isolation facilities and critical care, especially for ventilator support.

The Rapid Response Teams have been trained by this Ministry in all States for managing emergencies due to high-risk pathogens. Risk is being communicated through media including social media to raise awareness among the public. Daily press briefings are held and press releases issued.

There is outreach to every village in the districts adjoining Nepal border through Gram Sabhas. Daily situational reports are generated. A 24x7 Control room cum Call Centre is operational.

Harsh Vardhan said India evacuated 645 Indian persons from Wuhan city including seven Maldivians and quarantined them in two special quarantine camps. They are likely to be discharged once all test negative after a period of stay of 14 days.

India has extended support to the Maldives in testing samples and Bhutan in managing COVID-19. It has agreed to support Afghanistan in testing samples. The country is extending help to China by sending essential items for combating COVID-19 in China as per commitment of the Prime Minister.