New Delhi: A 76-year-old man who died two days ago in Karnataka while being treated for suspected coronavirus has become the country’s first COVID-19 fatality after his samples taken earlier confirmed the infection, said the state government on Thursday.
The central government later confirmed that the death was a result of coronavirus.
Karnataka Health Minister B Sriramulu in a tweet said the necessary contact tracing, isolation and other measures as per protocol were being taken on a day the number of positive cases across the country soared to 74.
The Union Health Ministry said 14 fresh cases have been reported from several states, including nine from Maharashtra.
"The 76-year-old man from Kalaburagi who passed away and was a suspected COVID-19 patient has been confirmed for COVID-19," he said.
The 76 year old man from Kalburgi who passed away & was a suspected #COVID19 patient has been Confirmed for #COVID19. The necessary contact tracing, isolation & other measures as per protocol are being carried out.— B Sriramulu (@sriramulubjp) March 12, 2020
The man, who recently returned from Saudi Arabia, had died on Tuesday night. Earlier, the district health and family welfare department said the man was suspected to be infected with coronavirus.
Sriramulu said the Telangana government has also been informed since the patient went to a private hospital there.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global "pandemic" amid the infection's spread to at least 124 countries. India till Thursday has confirmed 73 cases so far.
At least 4,600 people have died so far around the world — a majority of them in China and Italy, where the death roll rose to 1,000 on Thursday. Globally, there have been over 1.2 lakh confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Karnataka patient travelled to Hyderabad
The minister on Wednesday said the person had gone to Saudi Arabia towards the end of January and had returned on February 29. When he came back, he was down with fever and took treatment at a private hospital. Later, on the advice of doctors or family he had gone to Hyderabad.
The person had severe asthma history, blood pressure and appendicitis, among other things.
A senior health department official later clarified that the man died on the way back from Hyderabad around 11pm on Tuesday.
Listing the chronology of events, Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Jawaid Akhtar said the person got treated at an OPD of a private hospital in Kalaburagi on March 5 and the next day he got admitted to the hospital. On March 9, he was shifted to Hyderabad.
State Joint Director (Communicable Diseases) BG Prakash Kumar said all protocols were followed for disposal of the body.
"The body is disinfected completely and disposed as per the government of India guidelines," he said when asked to elaborate on the protocols. He said the Telangana government has also been informed.
Karnataka so far has reported five cases of coronavirus so far, with the latest addition being a 26-year-old man who returned from Greece and tested positive. The patient has been admitted and isolated at a hospital and his condition is stable, said a department media bulletin.
Nationwide efforts scaled up
As the Centre and states ramped up their efforts to tackle the outbreak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asked Indians not to panic and asserted that the government was fully vigilant.
Apart from directing the Union ministers not to travel abroad in the upcoming days, Modi also urged people to avoid non-essential travel.
A day after it suspended all visas, except a few categories such as diplomatic and employment, till April 15, the government also announced that three planes will be sent over the next three days to bring back Indians stranded in Iran, one of the worst coronavirus-hit countries.
Asking people not to panic, the Union health ministry said no community transmission of the virus has been observed and there has only been cases of local transmission so far.
Giving a state-wise breakup, the ministry said Delhi reported six positive cases and Uttar Pradesh 10. Karnataka has five cases, Maharashtra 11 and Ladakh three.
Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab have reported one case each. Kerala has recorded 17, including three patients who were discharged last month.
Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary in the ministry, said 1,500 people who came in contact with these 74 infected people were under rigorous observation while over 30,000 people across the country were under community surveillance.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government declared the coronavirus an epidemic and said all those schools and colleges where exams are over should be shut down as well as cinema halls till March 31.
(With inputs from agencies)