New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s Office has told the health ministry to rapidly expand the facilities to test for coronavirus (Covid-19) and isolate suspected cases to the district level and map the disease hot-spots with the available medical facilities.
PK Mishra, principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also discouraged government departments from holding conferences and international meetings. It was decided to order all departments to consult the health ministry before going ahead with any conference and international meeting in the country.
Already, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared that he would not participate in any Holi Milan event in light of advice from experts to reduce large gatherings of people to avoid the spread of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus.
PM Modi’s cabinet colleagues and chief ministers of BJP-ruled states soon after made similar announcements. By evening, President Ram Nath Kovind aso announced that Rashtrapati Bhavan would not hold the traditional Holi gatherings as a precautionary measure.
Wednesday’s meeting was held against the backdrop of a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 28, nearly half of them Italian tourists who contracted the infection from one man in their group. By the time doctors were able to confirm the infection, it transpires that the group had come in contact with over 200 Indians across six districts of Rajasthan where they had travelled.
It was in this context that the PMO review decided to rapidly open proper testing, isolation and quarantine facilities in various parts of the country, down to the district level. An official statement issued later said these facilities would be rolled out in partnership with the state governments.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has already cancelled Home Minister Amit Shah’s rally in Hyderabad scheduled to be held on March 15. K Krishna Saagar Rao of the Telangana BJP said the rally had been deferred to a future date.
The government, in an effort to ensure that any more people infected with the virus do not enter the country, has introduced screening of all travellers returning from abroad. Changes are also being made in the immigration form that requires travellers to declare the countries that they have visited in recent days and weeks.
This would enable the government to isolate potential cases for a closer examination, depending on their travel history.
“Two important changes since yesterday to further enhance our level of preparedness, namely the introduction of universal screening at all international airports and sea-ports through use of thermal imagery equipment as well as mandatory declaration forms of places visited by tourists and travellers returning from abroad, were noted by all concerned for operationalization,” the PMO statement said.
It said the review meeting stressed on the participation of communities and local bodies to combat the public health challenge posed by the virus and also decided to explore the greater involvement of the private sector.