The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global panic. Governments and organisations around the world are on high alert since its first outbreak in Wuhan, China.
On January 30, just after a month of the first case in Wuhan, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Kerala. Following the arrival of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in India, the Indian government(s) both central and state are working in stealth mode to contain the situation.
Here are some of the significant steps that have been taken by the governments since then.
When the first case was confirmed in the country, both the central and state governments started reviewing their capabilities of surveillance, diagnostics, hospital preparedness, infection prevention and control, logistics and risk communication. On January 31, 12 labs were set up in the country for testing and screening patients; the number of labs has increased to 57 as of now. The central government is in plans to build 56 more such virus research diagnostic labs across the country.
As the number of new cases is emerging across the country, the governments are working day and night to ensure less contamination. As soon as 3 cases were confirmed in Kerala; the state disaster management declared a state calamity on February 3 which (was later lifted on February 7 as the number of cases dropped low). On March 9, 44 more cases were reported in India, leading to a high alert status for all states. Following the lead of Kerala, the whole nation is in a state of a virtual shutdown. It means that all the educational institutions, including school and colleges, gyms, museums, swimming pools, theatres and other places where mass gathering can occur are suspended till March 31. Center issued this order earlier this morning.
To inform the general population, a unique COVID-19 mobile phone caller tune was launched by all telecom operators with important infection prevention messages played when a caller dials-out. In a public release yesterday, PM Modi asked MPs to suspend political campaigns and focus on spreading awareness about COVID-19.
On March 11, as WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic; The Government of India has invoked powers under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to enhance preparedness and containment of the virus. It has also declared COVID-19 a ‘notified disaster’ under the Disaster Management Act 2005. Notified disaster status will ensure compensation and aid to infected people and the families of those who died due to the virus. Funds for this and other measures will be drawn from the Disaster Response Funds of each state (SDRF). Under SDRF, the state governments are providing compensation of 4lakhs to the families of those whose deaths have been linked to the COVID-19. In addition, the state government has fixed the cost of Hospitalisation of COVID-19 patients. To ensure the availability of sanitizers and masks, A buffer stock of personal protective equipment (PPE) and N95 masks is being maintained by the states as well as the Union Government. A government notification by Consumer, Food and Public Distribution Ministry declared N95 masks and hand sanitizers as essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. The order is valid until June 30, 2020.
The Indian government has taken primary airlifting operations to evacuate people from the major hotspots around the globe. In the first week of February, two Indian Airforce aircraft airlifted 650 Indians from the epicentre, Wuhan. Later, Between 26-27 February, Government of India evacuated 124 people from Japan including 119 Indian citizens and five nationals from Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru. They were quarantined on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship at Yokohama due to COVID-19. One hundred twelve more Indian and foreign nationals are evacuated from Wuhan and later kept in quarantine at Manesar Camp. We have also removed over 230 Indians from Iran. Air India flight from Milan brought 218 Indians back to the capital; 53 other Indian nationals had returned from Iran just yesterday.
On March 13, the Government of India has suspended all the all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment, project visas until April 15 2020. India has banned passengers from EU countries, the UK and Turkey until the end of this month. Besides visa restrictions that are already in place, people who have traveled from or have visited Italy or Republic of Korea recently and plan to enter India will now require a certificate indicating that they are negative for Coronavirus from laboratories authorized by these countries. The land border with Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan have been partial to complete, shut.
Apart from this, India has been a catalyst for checking the growth of the COVID-19 in Southern Asia by offering diplomatic, emergency and medical assistance to the nations in need. India has sent a team of professionals to set up a testing facility in Iran to test Indian citizens who were denied testing due to high load on local doctors. We are in talks to airlift our nationals from Iran in the coming weeks. We have sent a 15 tonnes batch of medical assistance to the epicenter of Wuhan. We are providing support to the Maldives in this most unfortunate time.
Although the administration should have taken strict action earlier in the month of February, we appreciate the efforts being taken by the Indian governments, both state and central alike.
Meanwhile BuddyBits urges you to stay safe; stop pretending to be invincible and comply with the authorities as much as you can. Please note that the shutdown being imposed is to save you and your loved ones from infection; thence you are asked to follow them sincerely. Stay safe!