News Flash – 3 February 2020

National News



330 Indians, Maldivians Airlifted from Wuhan, China

Medics screen Indian nationals after they were brought in a special AI flight from coronavirus-hit Wuhan to New Delhi on Saturday.



New Delhi: As the coronavirus epidemic gathered intensity with over 305 recorded deaths in China alone, India on Sunday suspended e-visa facility for Chinese travellers and foreigners travelling from China. “Due to certain developments, travel to India on e-visas stands temporarily suspended with immediate effect,” the Indian Embassy in Beijing tweeted. “This applies to holders of Chinese passports and applicants of other nationalities residing in the People’s Republic of China. Holders of already issued e-visas may note that these are no longer valid,” it added. While India has not yet suspended flights as the US has done, the Indian embassy in Beijing has left a window open for emergency/ important travellers from China to India. “All those who have a compelling reason to visit India may contact the embassy of India in Beijing or the Indian consulates in Shanghai or Guangzhou, as well as the Indian visa application centres in these cities”, the statement said. An additional concern emerged on Sunday when the Chinese government said it was tackling a bird flu outbreak in Hunan province, which is adjacent to Hubei province, the scene of the coronavirus outbreak.



On Sunday, India airlifted a second batch of 323 stranded Indians and seven Maldivian citizens from Wuhan, taking the number of people evacuated to 654. Air India’s 747 jumbo jet made two flights to Wuhan — ground zero of the coronavirus epidemic. In the first flight early on Saturday, 324 Indians were evacuated though a couple of people who showed symptoms like fever had to be left behind. Those who returned have been kept in quarantine for two weeks, before they are allowed out. Foreign minister S Jaishankar tweeted on Sunday, “Seven Maldivians brought back with 323 Indians from Wuhan on the second Air India flight on Sunday. Neighbourhood first at work again.” Maldives President Ibrahim Solih thanked the Indian government for the assistance. So far, the virus has infected almost 15,000 people, while the first death outside China was recorded in the Philippines. Two Indians, both from Kerala, have tested positive for novel coronavirus.



Coronavirus Transmission by ‘Silent Carriers’ a Worry


Kolkata: It was not enough to quarantine only those with suspected symptoms of the novel coronavirus since many could be ‘silent carriers’ like the nurse from Wuhan, who had flown back to Kochi via Kolkata on January 23 and their symptoms may show up later when they have already come in contact with others in the community and transmitted the disease, warned experts. Even though the Indians, who landed in Delhi on Thursday night, will remain in isolation for 15 days, several may have already reached Kolkata from the affected countries. While one was suspected to have symptoms of the virus and was later released, the clinical report of a Thai national, who died at a private hospital last week, was negative. It is important to study the history of a visitor’s travel and take steps accordingly, said virologists. If he or she has been to China or any other part of the continent, where there were chances of coming in contact with infected people, vigilance is a must, felt experts. “This strain of coronavirus spreads very fast unlike other common viruses. Other strains of coronavirus cause common cough and cold and the influenza viruses. It may take several days for the symptoms to manifest so the people, who have travelled through the affected regions, need to be screened for at least a fortnight. Or else, they may end up transmitting the disease,” said virologist Amitabha Nandy. He added that a silent carrier increases more the chances of transmission and it could be difficult to control the spread of the virus, if one or two such carriers manage to sneak into the city. “Since the early signs of novel coronavirus aren’t different from other common viruses, it is difficult to detect it at the first stage. So, screening and isolation are a must,” said Nandy.



The virus may take up to 14 days to manifest itself through symptoms, said Fortis Hospital internal medicine consultant Joydeep Ghosh. “The majority of the infected people could remain without the symptoms for more than a week. But they are carrying the virus and pose a bigger threat since they are not being suspected and others come in contact with them. A fortnight’s screening is the only real full-proof measure to prevent the transmission,” said Ghosh. It is, however, too early to assume that the virus is more lethal than other common viruses, said doctors. In fact, SARS that is also a coronavirus had a 10% mortality rate while novel so far has a mortality rate of less than 3%. “But these are still early days and we don’t know the real numbers yet. But going by the reports so far, it is highly contagious and difficult to contain,” said Biswas. Severe breathing distress in young healthy people, diarrhoea with fever, cough and cold may indicate novel coronavirus, said AMRI Hospitals consultant Debashish Saha. “If a healthy person shows severe viral symptoms, there is a reason to be concerned. Since there is no medicine for coronavirus, it is better to get admitted to hospital. This will ensure isolation,” said Saha. Any fast-spreading virus is bound to lead to deaths, pointed out Nandy. “Initially, people are not aware of this fact and tend to ignore the symptoms that lead to a delayed intervention and death. Those, especially elderly people suffering from low immunity, cardiac ailments, renal or kidney ailments, lung diseases are more vulnerable,” said Nandy. Novel coronavirus could be fatal for the elderly with respiratory diseases since it affects the lungs and causes breathing distress. “It may lead to pneumonia that can be fatal,” said Nandy. But there are no early sings to distinguish it from other viruses, he added.



International News



Philippines Reports First Virus Death Outside China

10 DAYS, HOSPITAL BUILT: China has delivered on its promise to build a hospital for coronavirus patients at the epicenter of the outbreak within 10 days. About 1,400 military medics will start work at the hospital on Monday.



Beijing: The Philippines on Sunday reported the first death from a new virus outside of China, where authorities delayed the opening of schools in the worst-hit province and tightened quarantine measures in a city that allow only one family member to venture out to buy supplies. The Philippine department of health said a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan was admitted on January 25 after experiencing a fever, cough, and sore throat. He developed severe pneumonia, and in his last few days, “the patient was stable and showed signs of improvement, however, the condition of the patient deteriorated within his last 24 hours resulting in his demise”. The man’s 38-year-old female companion, also from Wuhan, also tested positive for the virus and remains in hospital isolation in Manila. The death toll in China climbed by 45 to 304 and the number of cases by 2,590 to 14,380, according to the National Health Commission, well above the number of those infected in in the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which broke out in southern China and spread worldwide.



Meanwhile, six officials in the city of Huanggang, neighbouring the epicenter of Wuhan in Hubei province, have been fired over “poor performance” in handling the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The trading centre of Wenzhou in coastal Zhejiang province confined people to homes, allowing only one family member to venture out every other day to buy necessary supplies. Huanggang imposed similar measures on Saturday. With the outbreak showing little sign of abating, authorities in Hubei and elsewhere have extended the Lunar New Year holiday, due to end this week, well into February. New Zealand announced Sunday it is temporarily banning travelers from China to protect the South Pacific region from the virus. The 14-day ban applies to foreigners leaving China but not to New Zealand residents. New Zealand also raised its travel advice for China to “Do not travel”, the highest level. Indonesia and Vietnam too took similar steps.



Man Killed in London after 3 Stabbed in ‘Terror’ Attack

Police officers converged on the site of the shooting in Streatham, England, on Sunday.



London: Police shot dead a machete-wielding man in south London on Sunday after three people were stabbed in what police described as a terrorism-related incident. The attack took place in the Streatham neighbourhood, a bustling residential area that doesn’t boast any major British landmarks like areas hit by earlier attacks. “The circumstances are being assessed; the incident has been declared as terrorist-related,” police said. A Western security source said the incident was related to Islamist militancy. The local MP, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, said one of the wounded was seriously hurt. Sky News quoted Gulled Bulhan, a 19-year-old student from Streatham, as saying he witnessed the shooting in front of a shop. “I was crossing the road when I saw a man with a machete and silver canisters on his chest being chased by what I assume was an undercover police officer — as they were in civilian clothing,” Bulhan said. “The man was then shot. I think I heard three gun shots but I can’t quite remember”. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was due to rush back to Downing Street on Sunday night, tweeted: “Thank you to all emergency services responding to the incident in Streatham, which the police have now declared as terrorism-related. My thoughts are with the injured and all those affected”. Graham Norton, London Ambulance Service strategic commander, said: “We were called at 1.58 pm on February 2 to reports of an incident in Streatham High Road. We are working closely with the other emergency services and are treating a number of patients at the scene”. London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “I am in close contact with the Met commissioner and local representatives, and want to thank our police, security and emergency services staff for their swift and courageous response.



20 Killed in a Stampede at Church Service in Tanzania



Dar Es Salam: At least 20 people were killed and more than a dozen hurt in a stampede as worshippers rushed to be anointed during a church service in northern Tanzania, officials said on Sunday. Thousands of people crammed into a sports stadium for the service on Saturday evening in the town of Moshi near Mount Kilimanjaro, with many getting crushed after the pastor called them to be anointed with “blessed oil”. The pastor was arrested on Sunday, officials said. “Twenty people died and 16 others were injured in the incident,” Moshi district commissioner Kippi Warioba said. Five of the dead were kids. Pastor Boniface Mwamposa had been drawing crowds by promising prosperity and cures for diseases to worshippers who step in what he calls “blessed oil” during his services. According to the home affairs minister George Simbachawene, the stampede took place after the pastor instructed worshippers, who numbered some 10,000, to rush to one side of the stadium all at once to get anointed. Mwamposa was arrested on Sunday in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar Es Salaam, as he attempted to flee the country.

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