Coronavirus update: One million kits ordered, says ICMR DG

Centre curtailed entry of Indian passengers travelling from European Union countries, the UK and Turkey, starting from March 18

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 17 March 2020

India could soon have private centres test people to identify if they carry the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), hinted Balram Bhargava, the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, on March 17, 2020. Already, 51 labs have been accredited, he said. A physicians referral for such tests would be essential. 

Bhargava appealed to private labs to help out for free. He, however, pointed out that India was a democracy and nothing could be made mandatory.

The country has 72 test centres, with more in the pipeline, he said. One million testing kits were also ordered, according to him.

Already, 500 samples have tested negative, Bhargava said while ruling out any community transmission yet in India. Samples will be checked every week.

India records third death

India recorded its third death from the the virus in Maharashtra on March 17. The patient was admitted to a private hospital for five days and was referred to Mumbai's Kasturba hospital, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare .

The patient had a travel history to Dubai, Saudi Arabia. His wife also tested positive for the virus.

Maharashtra recorded 39 infections — the most number of cases across the country.

127 infected in India

Two more cases of the virus infection were reported from Noida on March 17.

This takes the total number of those infected with the virus in India to 127, including the three deaths.

The tally on March 16 was 114. The jump was because an increase in the number of cases in Maharashtra — not reflected in the number shared by the health ministry on March 16 — was not accounted for.

Kerala and Ladakh reported one additional case each of a person carrying the virus on March 16. The total count for the state and the union territory went up to 23 and 4, respectively.

Odisha also reported its first case on March 16.

Doctor who treated virus victim tests positive

A 63-year-old doctor in Karnataka who treated a 76-year-old patient who later died after getting infected with the virus, tested positive. He, along with his family, were quarantined at home. The doctor will be sent to the isolation ward on March 17, according to Sharat B, deputy commissioner in Karnataka's Kalaburagi.

No expansion of testing criteria

India has not expanded testing criteria for the virus — despite recommendations from several experts — to increase the hunt for positive cases.

“We are only testing those coming from abroad or their contacts having COVID-19 symptoms. More testing would lead to panic,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the health ministry at a press conference on March 16.

Entry from EU countries to India stopped

The union government — in a first — curtailed the entry of Indian passengers travelling from European Union countries, the UK and Turkey, starting from March 18, amid the global novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

Indian travellers were banned with immediate effect from Afghanistan, Phillippines and Malaysia, according to a notification issued by the health ministry.

“No airline shall board a passenger from these nations to India,” said the advisory, issued on March 16.

Europe — including the European Union countries — has emerged as the new epicentre of the pandemic, with most nations facing their worst health care crises in recent history.

Social distancing measures strengthened

The centre further strengthened social distancing measures for the entire country on March 16.

The measures propose private sector organisations encourage employees to work from home, closing all education institutions, avoiding non-essential travel within the country, postponing large social gatherings and amplifying communication drives.

Shutting schools would reduce coronavirus transmission – expert

Shutting schools would lead to a reduction in transmission of the virus, according to Neil Ferguson, a leading scientist involved in modelling the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Central Railway cancels 22 trains

Central Railway has increased platform ticket fare from Rs 10 to Rs 50 till further notice at railway stations in Mumbai, Pune, Bhusaval, Nagpur and Solapur divisions in an attempt to curb crowds on platforms.

Schools, colleges in UP shut till April 2

Schools and colleges will be shut in Uttar Pradesh till April 2, said state officials.

Coronavirus cases in Pakistan surge to 189

The number of those infected by the virus in Pakistan jumped to 189, after five new cases in Sindh were reported, according to news daily Express Tribune, quoting a source.

The number of quarantined pilgrims in Balochistan’s Taftan were over 9,000, according to the report.

Iran’s death toll increases to 998

Iran’s death toll from the virus outbreak increased to 988, with 135 new deaths reported on March 17, a health ministry spokesman told state TV, according to news agency Reuters.

Malaysia reports first two deaths

Malaysia reported its first two deaths from the coronavirus outbreak on March 17, as the number of infected reached 673.

Only one case in Wuhan, former epicentre

One one case of infection was reported from China's Wuhan, the former epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, on March 17. The virus was first detected in Wuhan in December 2019.

California, US in lockdown

More than seven million residents in California's San Francisco Bay were ordered to confine themselves to their homes,

Spain’s cases surpass 11,000

The number of coronavirus cases in Spain reached 11,178 on March 17, with the number of deaths up to 491, said Fernando Simon, the head of the country’s health emergency centre. The number of cases is up from the earlier tally of 9,161 on March 16.

15 Polish ministers isolated

15 Polish ministers are in quarantine after environment minister Michal Wos tested positive for the virus.

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