In wake of rising cases of novel coronavirus in India, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister P.K. Mishra on Wednesday chaired an inter-ministerial meeting to review preparedness and response on the COVID-19 disease. This was the latest in a series of stock-taking meetings at the PMO, with the first held on 25 January.
The meeting emphasised on greater participation of the private sector and the community at large, through a Jan Bhagidari approach. It was highlighted that participation of the communities and local bodies is essential to combat the public health challenge posed by the virus. The PMO has decided to explore the greater involvement of private sector.
Two important decisions taken today by the government and mentioned at the meeting include introduction of universal screening at all international airports and sea-ports through use of thermal imagery equipment, and mandatory filling of declaration forms of places visited by tourists and travellers returning from abroad.
In last two days, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases have spiked to 28 from 6 on Monday. Of these 16 are Italians while 12 are Indian nationals. More than 3,100 people have died, most of them in China, and over 90,000 have been infected worldwide by the virus.
According to PMO statement, the pro-active measures taken by the government have contained spread of the virus in India, despite a big population and geographical proximity to the epicentre of the disease. The PMO has decided to further enhance the effectiveness of the steps taken by adopting a pan-government approach, in partnership with the states.
In the meeting, decisions were also taken to rapidly implement opening of proper testing, isolation and quarantine facilities in various parts of the country, down to the district level, in partnership with the state governments.
"Ministries such as MHA, MoD, M/Railways and M/Labour would also seek to support and supplement the efforts of M/Health through use of their facilities and hospitals," as per PMO statement.
In a bid to share information to the general public in a timely manner, including relevant advisories and 'Do's and Don't's', Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been tasked to work closely with Ministry of Health, Ministry of Human Resource Development and NDMA.
For this purpose, Ministry of Health has started a system of regular daily briefings by their spokesperson, so as to ensure access to real time data for the public in a timely manner. Besides, it is also coordinating the activation of a GIS mapping of 'disease hotspots' and availability of medical facilities, with NDMA, relevant agencies and government departments.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that "experts across the world have advised to reduce mass gatherings to avoid the spread of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Hence, this year I have decided not to participate in any Holi Milan programme".
On March 3, PM Modi had urged people not to panic owing to new coronavirus cases reported from cities across India. Taking to Twitter, PM Modi said, "There is no need to panic. We need to work together, take small yet important measures to ensure self-protection. Had an extensive review regarding preparedness on the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Different ministries & states are working together, from screening people arriving in India to providing prompt medical attention."