Virus Alert

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Spread of coronavirus in China and reporting of cases in some parts of the world has been a source of great alarm. The virus has so far claimed 304 lives while 14,380 confirmed cases have been reported in China. The Philippines reported the first death outside China on Sunday. India has so far reported two confirmed cases, both from Kerala. The second patient is also a student from Wuhan who returned to India on January 24 and has been kept in isolation for monitoring. At least 1,793 people are under surveillance at homes across Kerala and 70 have been admitted to isolation wards at hospitals.

This is causing the world to pitch in efforts to stem further spread of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared the outbreak a global emergency. The WHO has said there have been 98 cases in 18 other countries, but no deaths. Addressing a news conference in Geneva, WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the virus as an “unprecedented outbreak”. He, however, said it had been met with an “unprecedented response”.

Many countries have halted direct flight to China. US and Australia have closed borders to Chinese arrivals. India is currently evacuating its citizens from Wuhan. On Saturday, the second Air India flight from Wuhan landed at Delhi airport with 323 more Indian nationals and seven Maldivians. None from the first batch of 324 Indians flown back from Wuhan have tested positive for the virus. Wuhan has emerged as the epicentre of the coronavirus, with maximum number of cases being reported from there. All confirmed cases across the world have traveled from the city.

The outbreak is testing the world’s capacity to handle it. The countries are quarantining their citizens evacuated from Wuhan and the other parts of China, so as to arrest the spread of the virus. But with many countries reporting a case or two of the virus, the situation looks scary and likely to get out of hand if the countries don’t take all necessary pre-emptive measures. There is also a concern is that the virus could spread to countries with weaker health systems.

Mercifully, no coronavirus case has been reported in Kashmir so far. Authorities, however, have expressed confidence the administration is geared to meet any exigency in case of the virus outbreak in the Valley. To this end, a high-level meeting was convened in Srinagar on Saturday to review the preparedness of the divisional administration. But the government should back its words with deed. Our poorer healthcare system is conducive to the spreading of the virus should we not act fast and ensure anyone traveling from China is quickly isolated and monitored before being allowed to go home. What government also urgently needs to do is put to more information in the public domain about the virus and about its state of preparedness, something that is singularly absent at this point of time.

 

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