With third COVID-19 case, Bengal begins tracking foreigners in state

These foreigners had reportedly come to Kolkata over the past two weeks

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Passengers board a crowded train amid worldwide coronavirus scare | PTI Photo

Detection of third COVID-19 positive case in West Bengal on Friday (March 20) late night shifted the government’s focus on containing the mass spread of the contagion even as the government is trying to track down activities of 14,000 “out-of-radar” foreign nationals.

These foreigners have reportedly come to Kolkata in the last two weeks. The government is now trying to trace their activities.

State home department sources told The Federal that the government is collecting information about them. “We are trying to find out how many of them have returned home or gone to other states. External affairs ministry’s foreigners registration division generally keeps such records,” an official said.

According to the home department sources, 718 people have come from the US, 554 from the UK, 146 from France, 145 from germany, 54 from Italy, 21 from China, 30 from Japan, 24 from South Korea, 40 from Spain apart from other countries which are not so severely hit by coronavirus.

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“Finding their activities and health condition is crucial to determine whether they properly followed self quarantine protocols,” the official said.

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As the home department launched its drive to track down the foreign nationals, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, under the directive of the health department, constituted special medical teams to do house-to-house search looking for patients with COVID-19 symptoms.

This, however, has nothing to do with the “manhunt” the home department is doing. The prime objective of this inspection is to sensitise in and around the areas frequented by those affected by the virus in the state.

The teams on Saturday (March 21) scanned Garia, Bansdroni, Jadavpur, Santoshpur, Hiland Park, Ballygunge, Rashbehari Avenue, Kasba and several other parts of the city, where the first two patients reportedly visited.

Similar search will also be done in other parts of the state, particularly in areas where migrant workers have returned from corona-hit areas, to find any unreported case or possible carrier, health department sources said.

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They said such screening is not immediately required at Habra in North 24 Parganas district, where the woman, the latest to be tested positive for COVID-19 in the state, resides as she had not gone home after her return from Scotland via Mumbai on Thursday (March 19).

Immediately, after the woman, who was in her early 20s, tested positive for coronavirus spread in Habra, local residents started insisting that the entire family and one of her friends who had allegedly met her should be quarantined.

Family members, however, refuted the charges, saying the woman had gone from the airport directly to the ID hospital and got admitted as she had some symptoms of the infection. She tested positive close to Friday midnight.

The special measure to scan high-risk localities was taken after the state government formed a task force headed by health secretary Vivek Kumar to deal with the crisis.

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The government has also decided to enforce “local shutdown” of areas if any sign of community infection is found, health department sources said, adding it’s too early to speak about this measure as it could create unnecessary panic. During “local shutdown”, people of a particular area under quarantine would not be allowed to go out and no one other than specified “help providers” would be allowed in.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee convened an all-party meeting on Monday to discuss the threat posed to the state by coronavirus and the preparedness to tackle it.

Giving the latest update, health department sources said on Friday that 1,211 travellers from COVID-19 affected countries were enlisted for observation. Of them, 19 were kept under hospital isolation while the rest were put in home isolation.

Samples of nine suspects were sent for testing on Friday. So far, 114 persons have been tested for COVID-19 in the state, of which three tested positive. Lab results of 7 are awaited.

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