The Government of India had started taking measures, including screening, much before the WHO had termed the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30, 2020, said Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister(I/C), Civil Aviation recently.
Addressing a press conference on coronavirus-related issues recently, the Union Minister said that screening of passengers coming from all parts of the world is currently being carried on at 30 Indian airports and 6,49,452 passengers have been screened on the last count. Secretary, MOCA, CMD, Air India, Chairman, Airports Authority of India and DG, DGCA were also present.
Hardeep Singh Puri stated that universal screening of all incoming passengers coming from all parts of the world has begun at Indian airports. After thermal screening, the passengers who show initial signs of fever, are subjected to full testing and further detailed process is carried out. He said that around 70,000 passengers coming to India on a daily basis through airports from different parts of the world, are being screened. The Minister said that number of people brought back by Air India from Wuhan is 654. Air India also brought back 124 people including 5 foreign nationals, who were on board the COVID-19 infected Cruise Ship Diamond Princess from Yokohoma, Japan. Indian Air Force also evacuated 112 people from Wuhan which included 35 nationals of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Maldives, China South Africa, USA and Madagascar.
Hardeep Singh Puri further informed that WINGS India 2020, a major event of Civil aviation sector scheduled from 12th to 15th March 2020, will be held on a truncated basis. Large public gatherings would be avoided. The local representatives would be attending the event. Video conferencing is being planned with the delegates outside India.
The Minister added that the evacuation of Indians from Iran is being planned in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Government of Iran.
He further added that meetings of Group of Ministers are held at regular intervals and four such meetings have taken place. Cabinet Secretary is also taking regular review meetings with all related Ministries including Health, Defense, External Affairs, Civil Aviation, Home, Textiles, Commerce, Pharmaceuticals and other officials including with State Chief Secretaries. The Minister further added that Government of India is in regular touch with WHO headquarters, regional office and country office to get updates on evolving scenario. The Minister said that the Government, industry, tourism sector are all working in cooperation. He said that all the concerned agencies are in contact with each other round the clock.
Preventive Measures to curb the Spread of Coronavirus Disease
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has been assisting the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in taking measures to prevent spread of Covid-19
Universal screening for coronavirus is being done at 30 airports having international operations. A total of 6,49,452 passengers have been screened till March 5, 2020 10:00 hrs) from 6550 flights.
All airports have been given strict directions that all passengers arriving from International flights shall be screened by APHO immediately once they step out of the specific identified Aerobridge. Separate Counters have been created near these aerobridges for their screening. After the screening and clearance given by APHO at these aerobridges, all passengers shall be allowed to proceed towards Immigration.
All airports operators shall identify and earmark the aerobridge and provide the necessary infrastructure for the purpose of screening.
Airport-wise Nodal Officers have been appointed at all the international airports and the list has been furnished to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to issue necessary instruction, if any, to the nodal officers at the airports directly without any delay.
Signage: Signage have been displayed at the designated places at all the airports having international operations.
Airlines have been instructed for making in-flight announcements as per the directions of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. All the international passengers are also being asked to fill the ‘Self Reporting Form’ in duplicate, as per the instructions of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Necessary instructions have been issued to the airlines by DGCA to carry the nCOV samples to the designated ICMR-NIV Pune Lab for testing.