coronavirus scare in India took a serious turn on Wednesday, with the
health ministry confirming as many as 23 new cases — all in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur — taking the total number of people who have so far been infected to 29.
A 26-year-old Paytm employee, a resident of Pankha Road in
Janakpuri, became the second Delhi resident to contract Covid-19. He had recently returned from a vacation in Italy, a coronavirus hotspot.
A majority of the new cases were among a party of Italian tourists, with 15 more testing positive for the virus, including the wife of the 69-year-old man, currently being treated in Jaipur, who had possibly carried the infection from Italy.
Others included six relatives from Agra of the Delhi resident who had earlier tested positive for the infection.
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The Paytm employee worked at the company’s Gurgaon office, which has been shut for 15 days. The company’s employees in Noida and other offices across India have been advised to work from home for the next two days. Paytm has also advised all team members who were in contact with the patient to get tested. The firm has nearly 3,000 employees, and the majority work out of its offices in Noida and Gurgaon.
Health officials in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan – where the Covid-19 patients have been travelling – face a massive task of tracing and testing everyone who may have come in contact with the infected people. The number of such persons is estimated to be over 100.
“The Italian nationals who tested positive for Covid-19 had been travelling across Rajasthan, Agra in Uttar Pradesh and parts of Delhi, before being put under isolation. The Delhi resident, too, came in contact with more than 60 individuals including his family members from the time he returned from Italy – where he is suspected to have caught the infection – to the time when he was finally tested positive for the novel coronavirus infection,” said a source.
Meanwhile, Paytm announced a slew of precautions after one of its employees tested positive.
A company spokesperson said, “One of our colleagues who recently returned from Italy has sadly been tested positive for coronavirus. He is receiving treatment (at Safdarjung hospital) and we are extending complete support to his family. As a precautionary measure, we have suggested his team members to get health tests done immediately. We have also advised all our colleagues to work from home for a couple of days while we get our offices sanitised. However, there will not be any impact on our daily operations and Paytm services will continue as usual.”
Government sources said all persons found positive for Covid19, except the 69-year-old Italian who was first in his group to be detected with Covid-19 and who is under treatment at Sawai Manshingh (SMS) hospital in Jaipur, are stable.
“The 69-year-old has some difficulty breathing. He is being given respiratory support using bi-pap machine, in addition to being treated with various antibiotics and anti-viral drugs for symptomatic relief,” said a source.
His wife, who tested positive on Wednesday, is also being treated at the same hospital.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said while there is no need to panic, government has asked all states, including Delhi-NCR where the maximum positive cases of Covid-19 are being treated at present, to create more isolation facilities.
“I met Delhi health minister
Satyendar Jain today and we discussed in detail preparedness for management of Covid-19 in Delhi. We have asked the state authorities to develop isolation facilities in all hospitals where the positive and suspected cases can be quarantined, if the need arises,” Vardhan said.
Later, Delhi CM
Arvind Kejriwal also announced the creation of a state task force to tackle the outbreak, if any, and to check black-marketing of masks and sanitisers.
Covid-19 spreads very fast and it is known to cause severe symptoms in elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses. Experience from China, where the outbreak originated, shows that children and young people are least affected by it.
A top official in
Niti Aayog said the government is planning to involve private hospitals as well in the coming days to scale up infrastructure for isolating and treating positive cases.
“A meeting of representatives from top private hospitals has been called on Thursday to discuss the plan. The government will help them create such facility,” V K Paul, member, Niti Aayog, told TOI.
Till date, 94,348 cases and 3,221 deaths have been reported due to Covid-19 – a novel coronavirus infection that was first reported in
Wuhan in China.
Epidemiologists said there was no need to panic as latest reports from China show the outbreak has started waning in China. “With right measures and awareness, Covid-19 outbreak can be controlled,” said a doctor. He added that most Covid-19 cases are mild. “Mortality rate is around 3%, which is lesser than that of SARS and MERS, both coronaviruses that caused outbreaks in the past,” the doctor added.
However, the on ground, anxiety levels are clearly on the rise. Despite appeals by authorities, citizens across the country complained that masks and sanitisers were unavailable at shops and online stores.