Coronavirus: India starts screening passengers from Singapore

New Delhi airport officials conduct temperature checks on passengers arriving from Wuhan on Feb 2, 2020. India is now also screening passengers on flights coming in from Singapore and Thailand. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - India is screening passengers on flights coming in from Singapore and Thailand for the coronavirus and has further restricted travel from China, as part of preventive measures to contain its spread.

Three Indian students returning from Wuhan tested positive for the virus and are currently in isolation in the southern state of Kerala.

The Indian government decided to extend thermal screening to passengers coming in from Singapore and Thailand after initiating screening for passengers coming in from China and Hong Kong last week.

There are over 500 weekly flights between India and Singapore, according to Indian government information, with direct flights to around 15 cities.

A letter from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to the civil aviation and health ministries said all passengers arriving from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand would be screened by the Airport Health Organisation once they have stepped out of the aerobridge.

The DGCA letter, accessed by The Straits Times, said passengers would be allowed to move towards immigration after screening and clearance by medical staff.

As of Tuesday (Feb 4), a total of 89,500 passengers of 777 planes had been screened at 21 airports, according to the health ministry.

On Wednesday, the government also further tightened travel from China and released a fresh travel advisory following a meeting of the Cabinet Secretary, as the death toll in China grew.

"Existing visas (including eVisa already issued) are no longer valid for any foreign national travelling from China," said a new advisory. "People travelling to China henceforth will be quarantined on return."

India, which shares a border with China and has a population of 1.33 billion people, has taken a number of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Kerala, where three people tested positive, declared it a "state calamity" to better mobilise resources for preventive measures.

India has put over 600 people evacuated from Wuhan in China in two quarantine centres in and around Delhi. They include nationals from the Maldives.

The health ministry tweeted on Wednesday that 5,123 people are under "home surveillance" as a precaution and results are awaited for 342 people.

The key focus, the authorities said, remained on travellers coming from China.

Airport health officials checking the body temperature of passengers arriving from Wuhan, at New Delhi airport on Feb 2, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

"We have a focused campaign to ensure that people coming from China or even coming in contact with anyone from China, especially Wuhan, they should observe home isolation," said federal Health and Family Welfare Secretary Preeti Sudan in a video message. "Please help us to help you; nobody wants their loved ones to be sick."

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