Coronavirus-hit Wuhan cut off by Beijing, India steps up vigil in airports

Passengers arriving from China and Hong Kong to undergo thermal screening at seven Indian airports

Coronavirus

Passengers arriving in India from China and Hong Kong will be thermal screened at seven airports of the country in the wake of a threat due to a new coronavirus that has claimed several lives in the Wuhan City of China, a government release said on Tuesday.

The ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) received an advisory from the ministry of health and family welfare in this regard. Following this, the MoCA said it has directed immediate arrangements for the health screening of passengers arriving from the neighbouring country. The screening will be undertaken at pre-immigration counters installed with thermal cameras.

In a press release, the civil aviation ministry said it has directed for all logistic support and arrangements to be made immediately for the screening of passengers arriving from China and Hong Kong. The seven airports identified for the process are Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Kochi.

It has also called for immediate implementation of the action plan and strict adherence by identified airports and all concerned airlines. The action plan also includes in-flight announcements by airlines, requesting passengers with history of fever and cough, and those who have travelled to Wuhan City in last 14 days, to self-declare the same.

Ground Zero Wuhan turns fortress

Wuhan City, which witnessed a steep rise in the number of such cases, has taken a string of measures to tighten the control and monitoring outbound passengers in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, reported Xinhua. It said outbound tour groups have been banned, and spot checks are being conducted by local police on inbound and outbound private passenger vehicles for live poultry or wild animals.

Chinese authorities said the number of people infected by the new SARS-like virus jumped to 300 on Tuesday, and that there have 80 new confirmed cases of the virus that has so far killed four people, with over 900 still under medical observation.

The first cases late last month were connected to a seafood market, and transmission was suspected to be occurring from animal-to-human. Authorities previously had not confirmed human-to-human transmission.

Also read | China coronavirus claims 4th victim as more screenings added

Anxiety rises, stocks fall

Anxieties grew after Chinese government expert Zhong Nanshan revealed on state television on Monday that the new coronavirus can spread from one person to another. Meanwhile, stock markets fell in much of Asia as investors worried about the potential impact on tourism and the economy.

“The outbreak of a SARS-like coronavirus in Wuhan is developing into a major potential economic risk to the Asia-Pacific region now that there is medical evidence of human-to-human transmission,” wrote Rajiv Biswas, the Asia Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit, in an analysis.

Australia suspects first case

News reports suggest at least seven cases of the virus were found in several other countries, including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia. A man showing symptoms of a SARS-like virus after visiting China is being held in isolation at his Australian home, in the country’s first suspected case of the coronavirus, health officials said.

Meanwhile, at least three US airports have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China. Thai authorities too have introduced thermal scanning of passengers arriving from high-risk areas of China at its airports in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi.

WHO mulls international emergency

The coronavirus (CoV) is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from common cold to acute respiratory syndromes, but the virus that has killed four people in China is a novel strain not seen before.

Common symptoms of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) strain, which has infected more than 300 people since the outbreak in Wuhan in December, include respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, said World Health Organisation.

A WHO panel is set to meet in Geneva on Wednesday to determine whether to declare the outbreak an international public health emergency.

(With inputs from agencies)

Also read | China reports SARS-like virus spreads across country, nearly 140 new cases

CATCH US ON: