Sixteen patients in Punjab and five in Haryana have been quarantined on suspicion of having Coronavirus, ministers in both the states said on Tuesday. However, one death in Punjab’s Amritsar was due to swine flu.

A 28-year-old man from Mohali in Punjab who had recently returned from China, was admitted to the PGI here after he was diagnosed with symptoms of Coronavirus.

The blood samples of all the patients have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said 16 patients have been kept in isolation wards and are under observation. Their samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology.

He said sample reports of the child, who died in Amritsar on Monday, confirmed swine flu was responsible for the death.

Sidhu’s counterpart in Haryana, Anil Vij told the media that five people, who have a travel history to China, have been hospitalised on suspicion of having Coronavirus symptoms.

According to him, two of them have shown symptoms closer to Coronavirus.

The two cases from Gurugram and one each from Faridabad, Panipat and Nuh have been reported, said Suraj Bhan Kamboj, Director General Health Services, Haryana.

“We have sent the samples of two people, who have shown symptoms, to National Institute of Virology in Pune for testing. But all the five are under observation,” he said.

PGI Director Jagat Ram told the media here that he wrote a letter to the Chief Secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh not to refer the suspected Coronavirus patients to the PGI but to keep them in isolation wards in their hospitals.

He said the 28-year-old man was the lone suspected case and the virus could be confirmed only after getting the report by Wednesday.

The man was admitted to the PGI with high grade fever and headache. His family has been quarantined in home.

Ram said the swine flu is still prevalent and both swine flu and Coronavirus have almost similar symptoms.

In Punjab, thermal sensors have been installed at Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport in Amritsar and the Chandigarh international airport to screen coronavirus.

Two suspected Coronavirus patients in Hyderabad test negative

Two persons, who had returned from China and were suspected to have symptoms of Coronavirus, were tested negative, Telangana health officials said on Tuesday.

A total of four persons, who had visited China, and wife of one of them approached the Sir Ronald Ross Institute of Tropical and Communicable Diseases, popularly known as Fever Hospital, here during last three days.

They were kept under observation and swab samples of two of them were sent to National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. “Both the samples tested negative,” said Fever Hospital Superintendent K. Shankar.

He told reporters that Telangana has not recorded any case of Coronavirus infection so far. “Only some people who suspected to be having symptoms of Coronavirus approached the hospital,” he said.

The official said after keeping them under observation at the isolation ward, the samples of only those really having the symptoms were being sent to Pune.

He said those coming from China were being screened on arrival at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad.

Shankar said there was no need for any panic but people should take the precautions like washing their hands frequently, using a cloth while sneezing or coughing and wearing mask while going out in public.

He said those carrying symptoms like running nose, fever, headache and breathing problem should avoid going at public places and should approach the hospital for treatment.

He also advised people to drop plans to travel to countries like China, including Hong Kong, as well as Singapore and Vietnam, where the disease is endemic.

An isolation ward with 40 beds has been set up at the Fever Hospital as a precautionary measure to deal with suspected cases of Coronavirus.

Similar isolation wards have also been set up at Gandhi Hospital and Chest Hospital in Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, three teams from Union Ministry of Health on Tuesday visited these hospitals to review the level of preparedness to deal with possible Coronavirus cases and suggested additional measures.

Coronavirus outbreak could peak in ten days: Chinese expert

A viral outbreak that has killed 106 people in China could reach its peak in around 10 days, a top Chinese government expert said Tuesday.

The novel coronavirus that has infected thousands of people across China has genetic similarities to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a pathogen that left some 650 people dead on the mainland and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

The new virus first emerged in early December in the central city of Wuhan and the number of cases has soared in recent days, doubling to more than 4,500 in the past 24 hours.

Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China’s National Health Commission, told the official Xinhua news agency that the outbreak “will not increase at a large scale”.

“I believe it should reach a peak in a week or around ten days,” Zhong said.

Zhong told Xinhua that the “fatality rate would certainly continue to fall” even though no cure had been found so far, thanks to life support technology and efforts of researchers and medical workers.

The virus spread quickly through Wuhan because “there could have been many mild cases that were similar to regular colds,” Zeng Guang, a member of the health commission’s senior expert panel, told state broadcaster CCTV.

“The battle of Wuhan is taking place under a situation where there is no clear boundary between us and the enemy,” Zeng said.

More than 50 million people have been barred from travelling in Wuhan and other cities in central Hubei province after a lockdown that began last week in a desperate effort to contain the spread of the virus.

Temperature checkpoints have been set up at railway stations and airports across the country.

But Ma Xiaowei, the head of China’s National Health Commission, said Sunday that the virus was “contagious during the incubation period,” prompting worries that asymptomatic people could be spreading the disease undetected.

“Compared to SARS, the new coronavirus is more ‘cunning’,” said Zeng, who is also the chief epidemiologist of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nevertheless, Zeng believed the situation would improve with the onset of warmer weather, which was “not conducive to the spread of infectious respiratory diseases”.

Chinese health authorities said many of the people who have tested positive for the virus without showing any symptoms were known close contacts of existing cases, so they were more likely to deliberately avoid public spaces.

Since “patients with mild illness tend to show fewer cough symptoms… the transmission ability might not be that strong,” said Li Xingwang, chief expert of the infectious diseases diagnosis and research center at Beijing Ditan Hospital.

China confirms 4,500 cases of virus, more than 50 elsewhere

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of a new virus, with 106 deaths. Most have been in the central city of Wuhan where the outbreak began in December. More than 50 cases have been confirmed in other places with nearly all of them involving Chinese tourists or people who visited Wuhan recently.

Some details on cases confirmed as of late Tuesday morning Beijing time:

  • China: 4,515 cases on the mainland, with 1,771 of those newly confirmed in the 24 hours through midnight Monday. In addition, Hong Kong has eight cases and Macao has five. Nearly all of the 106 deaths have been in central Hubei province, but the new total includes the first death in Beijing.
  • United States: 5, 2 in southern California and 1 each in Washington state, Chicago, and Arizona.
  • Thailand: 14
  • Australia: 5
  • Singapore: 7
  • South Korea: 4
  • Japan: 6
  • Malaysia: 4
  • France: 3
  • Taiwan: 3
  • Vietnam: 2
  • Canada: 2
  • Germany: 1
  • Nepal: 1
  • Cambodia: 1
  • Sri Lanka: 1
WHO says China virus evacuations not needed: report

Evacuating foreign nationals from the epicentre of China’s deadly virus outbreak is unnecessary, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday according to state media.

The health body said it was still “waiting for clarification” about the comments of its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who met with Chinese officials in Beijing, including President Xi Jinping to discuss how to contain the infection.

The United States, Japan and several other countries are drawing up plans to safely evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the origin of the coronavirus epidemic that has claimed more than 100 lives across China.

More than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding cities are subject to a lockdown that has halted flights, trains and bus travel in or out of the area.

Tedros’ agency “does not recommend the evacuation of nationals, and called on the international community to remain calm and not overreact,” according to a report in the official Xinhua news agency.

The country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the WHO chief China had “full capability, confidence and resources to overcome the epidemic at an early date,” the report said.

Tedros also will fly back to Geneva on Tuesday evening, said spokesman Christian Lindmeier.

The WHO last week stopped short of declaring the outbreak a global emergency, which could have prompted a more aggressive international response such as travel restrictions.

But on Monday it admitted making an error in originally assessing the virus’ worldwide threat as “moderate”, issuing an update late Sunday saying the risk was actually “high at the global level.”

More than 4,500 people across China have contracted the virus according to health authorities, while another 7,000 cases are suspected and awaiting confirmation.

Asian nations try to shield against deadly outbreak

Asian nations were ramping up defences against a deadly viral epidemic Tuesday, sealing borders, shuttering public places and clamping down on visitors from China.

Concern over the steadily expanding contagion is prompting an increasingly urgent push for protection.

Hong Kong, which has eight reported cases of the SARS-like disease, announced the sealing of six of its 14 border crossings to the mainland from Thursday.

The government in the semi-autonomous Chinese city of seven million had faced criticism for merely barring people from the outbreak’s ground-zero, central Hubei province.

“The epidemic has spread to many Chinese provinces. Only blocking visitors from Hubei can’t do much to help Hong Kong,” lawmaker Helena Wong said.

Singapore, with seven confirmed cases of the virus, has announced it will ban visitors who have travelled to Hubei as well as those with passports issued in that Chinese province.

Government official Lawrence Wong said the travel restrictions were not taken lightly and will be expanded if necessary.

Officials said efforts are also underway to track down an estimated 2,000 people already in Singapore with a Hubei travel history for potenital quarantine.

Mongolia has taken a much more drastic line, closing its entire border with China to pedestrians and cars as well as ordering schools to close. It has no reported cases.

In Russia’s Far-Eastern district, which shares some 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) of frontier with China, crossings that should have re-opened after Chinese New Year will stay closed for days or weeks.

Corralling the disease has become an effort at containing people’s movements, and both Malaysia and the Philippines have taken steps to squelch the flow of Chinese visitors.

Manila has been issuing visas on arrival since 2017 to Chinese nationals, adding fuel to the boom in mainland visitors to the Philippines.

That policy is now suspended, though Chinese can still apply for a visa at a consulate or embassy in their home nation.

‘Avoid people gathering’

“We are taking this proactive measure to slow down travel, and possibly help prevent the entry (of the virus),” said Jaime Morente, immigration commissioner in the Philippines, which has no confirmed cases.

Thailand announced that all passengers flying in from Chinese airports are undergoing screening, as the number of confirmed infections hit 14 on Tuesday – the highest outside of China.

The outbreak is sending shock waves through Asia’s tourism industry, which has become increasingly reliant on growing numbers of Chinese visitors.

The measures come amid a boom in Chinese foreign travel, with the number of tourists from the country increasing nearly tenfold since 2003, according to a report by research firm Capital Economics.

China has already imposed wide-ranging travel restrictions across the country and halted international tours, but on Tuesday called for all overseas travel to be postponed.

Authorities have also cracked down on public places where the disease could spread, with Mongolia barring events like conferences or sporting competitions.

From Wednesday, Hong Kong public facilities ranging from pools and sports centres to museums will all be closed.

Authorities say the restrictions have one primary purpose: “avoid people gathering.”

Coronavirus: HK to drastically cut cross-border travel with China

Hong Kong will drastically reduce cross-border travel with China in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, starting with the shutdown of the two railways and denying entry to individual mainland travellers, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.

Flights from and to mainland China will be cut by half and cross-border tour buses will also be reduced, the South China Morning Post quoted Lam as saying in a press conference as she listed the containment strategy that stopped short of a total shutdown demanded by legislators from across the political spectrum.

Beijing has agreed to stop issuing individual visas for travellers, who account for half of all such mainland arrivals into Hong Kong.

The measures will be effective midnight on Thursday.

In her second press conference on measures to cope with the infection that has claimed 106 lives in China, Lam, wearing a mask, said that the through train services between Hung Hom and Guangzhou would be suspended, while the Man Kan To and Sha Tau Kok checkpoints would also be closed.

According to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, eight confirmed cases have been reported in Hong Kong, seven in Macau and five in Taiwan.

As of Tuesday, there were at least 106 fatalities due to the coronavirus in China, with 4,515 confirmed cases in 30 provincial-level regions, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

At the moment, Tibet remains the only Chinese province that has not registered any cases.

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