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PM Modi sets up GoM to oversee coronavirus challenge

New Delhi: A high-level Group of Ministers constituted on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direction to review, monitor and evaluate the preparedness to combat Novel Coronavirus in India met for the first time Monday to review the preparedness to fight the virus that has affected three Indians so far.

The GoM comprises Union health minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, civil aviation minister Hardeep SinghPuri, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, minister of state G. Kishan Reddy, minister of state for health Ashwini Kumar Choubey and minister of state in charge of shipping Mansukh Lal Mandaviya.

Separately, Dr P K Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister on Monday reviewed the situation relating to coronavirus in the country and the arrangements for more than 600 evacuees who were flown to Delhi from Wuhan over Saturday and Sunday.

Three Indians, all in Kerala, have so far tested positive for coronavirus. Two of the cases were reported over the last two days.

A presentation of the status of coronavirus was made to the GoM. The members were also apprised of the three cases reported from Kerala. The preventive steps and measures taken for management of coronavirus in India were presented, which included information about the revised travel advisories issued Sunday regarding the temporary suspension of e-visa facilities.

The government has revised the travel advisory asking the public to refrain from traveling to China and that anyone with travel history in China since January 15 2020 and from now on could be quarantined. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared coronavirus as a global health emergency. The virus has claimed more than 350 lives in China so far.

The government has also temporarily suspended e-Visa facility for Chinese passport holders and e-Visas already issued to Chinese nationals are also not valid temporarily. The facility for submitting the application online for the physical visa from China has been suspended. It has been advised that people having compelling reasons to visit India should contact the Indian embassy in Beijing or consulate in Shanghai or Guangzhou. Instructions to comply with the above travel advisory have also been issued to all national and international airlines operating from China by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The GOM was also informed about the two quarantine centers hosting 645 people evacuated from Wuhan. The camps are being maintained by the army and ITBP.

A total of 593 flights have been screened covering a total of 72353 passengers so far since the government announced screening of passengers at 21 airports, international seaports and border crossings particularly with Nepal. Universal screening in all flights from Singapore and Thailand besides Hong Kong and China is being done. Further, 2815 people are presently under community surveillance in 29 States union territories, the GoM was informed.

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