Kerala govt declares coronavirus outbreak a state calamity

Coronavirus: Kerala declares state emergency
A nurse is seen inside a Coronavirus ward at a government hospital in Vijayawada, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Photo: PTI

After the third case of coronavirus was confirmed, the Kerala government on Monday declared the epidemic a state calamity.

There is no need to be afraid, Kerala Health Minister Shailaja asserted. This is a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the virus.

The officials said that there are 2239 people in Kerala who are under medical surveillance, both at home and in hospitals.

In wake of reports that human-to-human transmission is a possibility, the ministry informed that there are still 82 people in the state who have had close contact with the three from Wuhan who tested positive. The ministry cautioned them against travelling without the prior permission of the government.

Leaves of employees working in the Health department has been put on hold. If necessary, employees on leave in other departments too will be recalled to work, officials informed.

The government also decided not to send the district collectors for their yearly training in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand. Study tours of educational institutions too have been put on hold till February 14.

The third patient, like the two others who had earlier tested positive, is also a medical student of Wuhan University and is now isolated in Kanhangad District Hospital Of Kasaragod district.

“The condition of all the three is stable. The mortality rate of nCoV is very low but it can spread really fast. So we need to step up our vigil,” the minister said. She said health officials were busy tracing the contacts of those that had now been tested positive.

Shailaja also said that penal action will be taken against people who returned from China and are travelling through the state without informing the government.

The other Keralites who returned from Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus in China, are being observed closely as they too might have been infected.

It was on January 30 that the first nCoV positive case was confirmed in the country, in a patient who was in isolation in Thrissur General Hospital. On February 2, the second case was found positive. The patient was by then already in isolation in a government hospital in Alappuzha.

Why state calamity has been declared

Declaring a state calamity means the outbreak will now come under the Disaster Management Act.

This essentially means the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) headed by the Chef Secretary will be coordinating overall efforts to check the epidemic.

Apart from chief secretary, the secretaries of Home, Health, Disaster Management and Finance are members of the  SDMA.

This also opens the avenue for the state government to spend money from the State Disaster Response Fund. The police force would also get the authority to even arrest those who campaign against treatment, ignore state government directives on protocol for preventing spread of disease as well as treatment. It can take action against rumour mongers and also perpetrators of fake news.

Evacuees from Wuhan under observation in Delhi

A total of 406 people have been kept at the Indo-Tibetan Border Police facility in Chhawla area of the national capital after they were brought in two batches from Wuhan onboard separate Air India flights.

There are a total of 302 males, including three children, and 100 females, including a child, at this facility.

"Periodical medical checks are being done and all the tests conducted on the inmates for possible coronavirus exposure have been negative till now," an ITBP spokesperson said.

Indian nationals who were airlifted from coronavirus-hit Hubei province of China's Wuhan, undergo tests inside a quarantine facility set by up ITBP, at Chhawla area of New Delhi on Feb 3. Photo: ITBP via PTI

"Four isolation beds have been kept prepared at the facility in case it is required and doctors from AIIMS and Safdarjung are visiting regularly to assist the medical team of the force that is posted here round-the-clock," the spokesperson said.

Seven Maldivian nationals are also part of this group. They were evacuated by the second AI flight and brought here on Sunday.

Apart from this facility, the rest have been kept at an another quarantine facility run by the Army in Manesar (Gurgaon).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared a global emergency on January 31 on concerns that the coronavirus could spread to other countries with “weaker health care systems”.

Novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from common cold to acute respiratory syndromes.

The novel coronavirus started in Hubei province of China and has since spread to several countries, including three positive cases in India, both in the southern state of Kerala.

Outside China, Hong Kong and Macau, other countries with confirmed cases include Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Canada, the United States, United Arab Emirates, Australia, France and Germany.

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