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COVID-19: Govt for universal screening at all international airports

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New Delhi, March 4, 2020-

Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister P.K. Mishra on Wednesday chaired a crucial meeting callled to discuss ways to combat the deadly coronavirus, where it was decided to introduce universal screening at all international airports of the country.

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by the Cabinet Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Secretaries of Ministries of Health, Civil Aviation, Information and Broadcasting, Shipping, Tourism, Chairman (Airport Authority of India), Secretary (Border Management), MHA.

Senior officials from defence forces, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Niti Ayog and the Prime Minister’s Office also attended the meeting.

Two major changes have been made to further enhance government’s level of preparedness. These include introduction of universal screening at all international airports and sea-ports through use of thermal imagery equipment as well as mandatory filling of declaration forms of places visited by tourists and travellers returning from abroad.

It was also decided to rapidly implement opening of proper testing, isolation and quarantine facilities in various parts of the country, down to the district level, in partnership with state governments.

Ministries such as MHA, MoD, Railways and Labour would work with Ministry of Health through the use of their facilities and hospitals, it was decided in the meeting.

While efforts to contain the spread of the virus were appreciated, it was decided at the meeting to further enhance the effectiveness of the steps taken by adopting a pan-government approach, in partnership with the states. The Ministry of Home Affairs was tasked to work closely with state governments, including relevant district administration officials, to ensure compliance with screening protocols at Integrated Check Posts (ICPs).

The meeting took note of confusion among the people over lack of proper knowledge of the virus. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is entrusted with disseminating information to the general public in a timely manner, including relevant advisories and ‘dos and don’ts’.

“The Ministry of Health briefed the meeting on the positive impact of a 24-hour medical helpline, operational across the country since January 23 with ten dedicated telephone lines. These facilities have received over 6,000 phone calls,” said a government release.

Participation of communities and local bodies were also stressed in the meeting to combat the public health challenge posed by the virus.

Earlier on Monday, PM Modi tweeted: “Experts across the world have advised to reduce mass gatherings to avoid the spread of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Hence, this year I have decided not to participate in any Holi Milan programme.” On Tuesday, he urged people not to panic.

Wednesday’s meeting was the latest in a series of stock-taking meetings at the PMO, with the first held on January 25.

The first case of coronavirus in Delhi was detected on Monday. Six suspected cases are also detected in Agra, who came in contact with the person from Delhi found to be infected. As of today, 28 cases of coronavirus have been reported across India including the Italian nationals who are now been quarantined.

So far, 3,110 people have died across the globe due to the highly contagious virus.  (Agency)

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