New Delhi: With the threat of novel coronavirus looming large, the Union Health Ministry has decided to stock up at least 50,000 personal protection equipment (PPE) kits for doctors and other medical staff treating the patients.
The move assumes significance as there could be a spurt in the demand for PPE, which includes disposable clothing, boots, masks and gloves, in case India witnesses an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus that has claimed more than 900 lives in China.
India is among the top 30 countries at “high-risk” from the spread of the deadly coronavirus, according to a study based on the number of air travellers predicted to arrive in the countries from the worst-affected cities in China.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Southampton in the UK.
India has already banned export of all kinds of personal protection equipment used to stop air-borne particles.
According to a health ministry official, even though there are adequate stocks of PPE and there is no crisis, the government is already in the process of procuring around 20,000 PPE kits from three companies which imported such equipments.
“One of the companies is providing us with 11,500 PPE kits while the two others are giving us 7,500 and 300 PPE kits respectively,” the official said.
Moreover, the health ministry is in discussion with three domestic companies which manufacture PPEs for the Army.
“Their product samples are being tested by the technical wing of the Ministry of Textiles. Once we get a nod from them, we will place orders for manufacturing PPEs in bulk. At present, we aim to stock up at least 50,000 PPE kits as a preventive measure,” he said.
So far, India reported three confirmed cases of nCoV, all from Kerala.
Three medical students of the Wuhan University, all natives of Kerala, who returned to India on their own recently and self-reported at a hospital in the state have tested positive for the respiratory virus.
Besides this, around 100 people are admitted to isolation wards in hospitals across the country while 9,678 people are under community surveillance.
Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan chaired a video conference on Monday with health secretaries from states and Union Territories along with senior officials from the ministries of shipping, civil aviation and home affairs to review their action and preparedness for prevention and management of nCoV.
Sudan informed the meeting that various precautionary measures have been undertaken in close coordination with the ministries concerned.
“While the situation is under control, the states need to stay on alert and be vigilant,” she said and advised them to enhance the awareness activities regarding updated advisories.
States and Union Territories were also asked to review the availability of earmarked isolation PPE kits and N95 masks to ensure adequate preparedness.
States were also asked to strengthen their rapid response teams to counter any eventuality.
Passengers arriving from Thailand and Singapore, besides China and Hong Kong, are being screened for possible exposure to nCoV at 21 airports. In all, 2,15,824 passengers from 1,984 flights have been screened so far at 21 airports.
Screening is also being done at major seaports and border crossings.
As of now, 1,563 samples have been tested of which three tested positive — all in Kerala.
All Indian evacuees from Wuhan have tested negative for nCoV.
The health ministry has asked people to refrain from travelling to China in view of the coronavirus outbreak and said travellers on return could be quarantined.
In an updated travel advisory, the health ministry said that the existing visas, including e-visas already issued, are no longer valid for any foreign national travelling from China.
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose to 909 in China on Monday while the number of those affected by the deadly disease spiralled to 40,235.