In an effort to contain the community transmission of coronavirus, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Tuesday directed all travellers returning from abroad, even if asymptomatic, to quarantine themselves at home for at least two weeks. In case of symptoms developing, they will need to get themselves checked.
"According to the revised advisory for testing protocol, asymptomatic patients who have travelled abroad need to be in home-quarantine for 14 days," said ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava. "They should be tested if they have symptoms."
The measures taken by the ICMR are in view of the novel coronavirus having spread to more than 150 countries across the globe, including India, where the virus has infected people across 13 states. As of Tuesday, India reported 137 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
According to officials from ICMR and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, most cases in the country can be categorised as imported cases, referring to the foreign source of the virus, while a few have been categorised as local transmission. These are the persons who tested positive after coming in contact with a relative or friend who returned from abroad.
India's testing protocol for Covid-19 states that anyone with history of travel to high-risk countries such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Iran and Italy will have to get themselves tested. The protocol also applies to those who have come in contact with a person who has already tested positive.
Even among those who have returned from high-risk countries, only those who have developed symptoms such as dry cough, cold and fever during home quarantine are currently being tested. State and district surveillance units under health departments of each state are tasked with keeping a tab on symptoms of those who are in home quarantine or under observation.
India on Tuesday further extended its ban on arriving international passengers and said that it would not provide entry to even Indian passport holders residing in the United Kingdom, Turkey and whole of Europe till the end of March.
“Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European free trade association, Turkey and the United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from March 18, 2020. No airline shall board passengers from these nations to India with effect from 1200 GMT on March 18, 2020. The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure. Both these instructions are temporary measures and shall be in force till March 31, 2020, and will be reviewed subsequently,” said the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic after it infected 170,000 people across the globe and led to deaths of over 6,500.