News Flash – 4 March 2020

National News



4 Municipal Hospitals Identified to Setup Covid-19 Isolation wards at Short Notice


Mumbai: Four municipal hospitals where isolation wards can be set up at short notice in case of a Covid-19 outbreak have been identified by the BMC, said additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani on Tuesday. Currently, only Kasturba hospital has an isolation ward in the city. The hospitals shortlisted are Hinduhridaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray Trauma Care Hospital in Jogeshwari; Bhabha hospital in Bandra, Bhabha hospital in Kurla and Rajawadi in Ghatkopar. “The goal is to have over 500 isolation beds, including those in private hospitals. In case of an outbreak, there should be effective measures in place to contain the spread as the population density in Mumbai is high,” Kakani said. Among the other measures being taken by the municipal corporation include upgrading facilities in Kasturba, developing facilities at other locations by roping in more civic, state government and private hospitals. Kakani said the BMC has already started talks with two private hospitals. He said the third step would be to ensure adequate stock of medicine, material and protective gear, enough to last at least 10 days. “We have also issued a tender for long-term purchases so that we can procure material as and when we want,” he said, adding that finally if an outbreak does occur, the BMC would also focus on spreading awareness and information on combating the virus.



The state had also told government medical colleges to be ready to set up isolation wards. “Isolation wards could be set up in district hospitals so that there are over 500 isolation beds to tackle an outbreak,” Dr Pradeep Awate, disease surveillance officer, state government, said. Awate was speaking at a discussion organised by the Observer Research Foundation on ‘Combating Coronavirus’. He said surveillance was being carried out at the district level where telephonic contact was made with travellers who had been to places under Covid-19 threat. “If they develop any symptoms, they are referred to isolation wards,” he said. He said 3,245 samples had been tested in the country so far and that many of these were repeat tests done after 15 days of quarantine. “In the last four days itself, 365 samples were tested,” he said. The BMC has also been tracking passengers who arrived from countries battling the virus outbreak. “Even if they are asymptomatic, we make a phone call to them for 14 days. We have deputed people for this,” Kakani said.



Fear Goes Viral: Why you Shouldn’t Panic


New Delhi: Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain on Tuesday said the government was taking all possible steps to keep the city safe. Flanked by deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Jain said, “Isolation wards are being readied in 25 hospitals, including 19 government-run and six private hospitals.” As many as 3.5-lakh N95 masks were being arranged, he added. “We have over 8,000 separation kits for staff treating coronavirus patients”. Health ministry officials told TOI that the six people from Agra, who are suspected to be infected, have a high viral load and have been quarantined at Safdarjung Hospital, while others who came in contact with the Delhi resident have been put under isolation at their respective homes. “Those admitted at Safdarjung hospital are under isolation and stable. We have sent their lung washing samples for testing the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. Confirmation is awaited,” the health ministry said. The Delhi Covid-19 patient had visited the La Piazza restaurant at Hyatt Regency Delhi on February 28. As a precautionary measure, the hotel said they had asked the staff present at the restaurant at that time to go on self-quarantine for 14 days. “Government authorities recently confirmed that an individual who dined at La Piazza restaurant at Hyatt Regency Delhi on February 28, 2020, has been diagnosed with Covid-19,” Hyatt Regency Delhi, area VP and general manager Julian Ayers said in a statement.



Meanwhile, an Italian tourist, who had come to India along with 21 others from his country, has confirmed positive for Covid-19. The virus has also showed up in the first test conducted on his wife. With this, the total number of cases in India is likely to rise to seven. Officially, the number is six because the result of the confirmatory test on the Italian woman is awaited. Of these, three cases detected in Kerala have been treated and sent home. Top officials in the health ministry said both the Delhi resident and the Italian national confirmed positive for Covid-19 were stable. “They are under quarantine and recovering well at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital and Jaipur’s Sawai Man Singh Hospital, respectively,” said an official. The other Italian nationals in the group (13 women and eight men) and three drivers who accompanied them have been put under isolation at the ITBP facility, sources said. Sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the issue of Covid-19 management in Delhi with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. This was the first meeting of the two since Kejriwal took charge as chief minister for his third term. Meanwhile, in Ghaziabad, the health department sent two samples of residents, who have recently returned from Iran, for coronavirus testing. Officials from the department said that they got information about the two people one from Indirapuram and the other from Vaishali, Sector 5 on Monday. While one person is suffering from cough and cold, the other is not known to have any such symptoms as of now. G K Mishra, the district malaria officer, said: “No positive case of coronavirus has been found in Ghaziabad so far”.



Another 345 Under Covid-19 Lens; 986 in home Isolation in Bengal


Kolkata: As many as 345 people in the state were added to the list of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) suspects and advised to be put in home isolation on Tuesday. So far, there has been no positive case of Covid-19 in the state. All the swab samples collected from Covid-19 suspects in West Bengal tested negative. But the state health department is on its toes and is continuously monitoring 986 persons kept in home isolation, many of them from Kolkata. With increasing number of people returning home from places affected by the virus, the health department has scaled up the number of isolation beds in hospitals, taking more such facilities into the fold. “Though all 28 samples collected from suspects so far have tested negative for the virus, we are on our toes with strict surveillance,” said Dr Ajay Chakraborty, director of health services. Earlier, 30 persons had been kept under observation in hospital isolation. While 89 people who had travelled to the affected regions have completed the home-quarantine period, 986 continue to remain in home isolation till the 28-day surveillance period is over, even if they do not have any symptom. As a precautionary measure, the first isolation facility to treat the affected was set up at Infectious Diseases & Beliaghata General (IB&BG) Hospital in Kolkata with 20 beds, much before India reported its first confirmed Covid-19 case in Kerala.



At present, apart from the medical colleges in the city, eight state-run facilities in the districts have also set up isolation wards, taking the number of isolation beds to 92. “So far we have been able to manage. We are equipped to increase our isolation facilities if the situation demands,” Chakraborty added. The Covid-19 scare surfaced in the city in January when a Thai national died at a private city hospital. However, her swab samples sent to National Institute of Virology, Pune, tested negative for Covid-19. “Apart from one or two samples in the initial days, all swab samples have been tested at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, ICMR. This is saving a lot of time in procuring the reports. It is also taking the load off the NIV, Pune, laboratory,” said Shanta Dutta, director, NICED. Earlier, NICED, Kolkata, was also getting samples from the neighbouring Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. But after the central government expanded the network of laboratories, NICED has been testing samples from only West Bengal. On Tuesday, three suspects who were under hospital observation were discharged after their samples tested negative. Currently, no patient is under hospital isolation.



State to Procure Robots to Fight along with Firemen in Critical Cases


Kolkata: The state fire department will soon have robots in its squad to fight alongside firemen. It is in an advanced stage of acquisition of four such robots, which will be used in situations like extreme heat, suffocating smoke and possibility of explosion. With this addition, Bengal will be the first fighting unit in the eastern region to have robots. If everything goes according to the plan, the robots will be pressed into service in this March itself. Sources said these robots will help in fighting devastating chemical fire like Bagri Market with much greater efficacy. “Since our chief minister Mamata Banerjee accorded highest importance in safeguarding people’s life and property, we are trying fast to complete the tender procedure and acquire them. These robots will certainly be a game-changer in fire-fighting. Bengal will be the first fire-brigade in the eastern region to attain this level of modernisation,” said Sujit Bose, minister of state for fire and emergency services (independent charge). The decision of acquiring robot was taken after a delayed success in containing the fire at Bagri Market. It was induced by chemicals stockpiled by traders and also many places remained inaccessible because of the intense heat and toxic fume. The fire fighters fought an unequal battle to contain he fire.



“In such cases, robots will be an ideal solution. They have inbuilt motors to throw water or foam at such a speed that even a chemical fire can be put out really fast. We will not only save lives of firefighters, but will also help in dousing the flames in shortest possible time,” said Jag Mohan, director general, fire service. These robots are designed to fight the most hazardous fires. Made with fire and heat-resistant materials, these robots are remote controlled. “They can reach the seat of the fire and extinguish it most effectively,” said additional director general Niladri Chakraborty. Since these robots are fitted with sensors and has ability to capture thermal imagery, it will give us live report of actual intensity and extent of the fire. This would also help us to adopt a correct firefighting strategy. They can carry out critical tasks of extinguishing systems in buildings and automatically move to the source of fire to carry out the initial fire extinguishing process until the fire fighters reach the spot. The gadgets can also be used to carry out awareness drives in malls. The robot will be subject to a trial period of three months and then evaluated to determine its technical and operational efficiency, said an officer.



International News



Can’t Stop Virus Sans Protective Gear, and they are Rapidly Depleting: WHO


China: The world has entered uncharted territory in its battle against the deadly coronavirus, the UN health agency warned, as new infections dropped dramatically in China on Tuesday but surged abroad. Globally, the virus has killed more than 3,155 people and infected around 92,722 across 77 countries and territories even as a clear shift in the crisis emerges, with nine times as many new cases recorded outside China as inside, according to the WHO. China excluding the territories of Hong Kong and Macau where the epidemic emerged at the end of December, had 80,151 cases, of which 2,943 were fatal. There were 125 new infections and 31 deaths. Outside of China, a total of 12,571 cases have been recorded around the world since the epidemic began, including 212 deaths. There have been 2,441 new cases outside China since Monday. The most affected countries after China are: South Korea (5,186 cases, 28 deaths, 851 new cases), Italy (2,502 cases, 79 deaths, 466 new cases), Iran (2,336 cases, 77 deaths, 835 new cases) and Japan (268 cases, 12 deaths, 14 new cases). Japan has also recorded over 700 cases aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess moored off Yokohama. The WHO on Tuesday also said understanding how the new coronavirus spreads was rapidly increasing, but warned the protective gear needed to fight the disease was “rapidly depleting”. The UN health agency voiced concern that the masks, googles and other protective equipment used by health workers was running out amid panic buying and manipulation of markets. “We are concerned that countries’ abilities to respond are being compromised by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment…caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse,” Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.



“We can’t stop Covid-19 without protecting our health workers,” he said. The prices of surgical masks have increased six-fold, while the cost for ventilators had tripled, he added. Tedros said WHO had shipped more than half a million sets of personal protective equipment to 27 countries, but warned that “supplies are rapidly depleting”. He urged a dramatic hike in production, saying WHO estimates the response to COVID-19 would require 89 million medical masks, 76 million pairs of examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles each month. With the threat of a full-scale pandemic growing by the day, governments around the world shifted their focus on Tuesday to devising plans to contain the spread of the new coronavirus rather than to stamp it out. While Italy has locked down towns, other countries have stopped short of imposing mass quarantines and instead have discouraged large gatherings, delayed sporting events and banned arrivals from virus-hit nations. Twitter told staff across the world to work from home. China has even confirmed 13 imported infections, including eight Chinese nationals who worked at the same restaurant in northern Italy’s Lombardy region. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province are imposing 14-day quarantines on people arriving from countries with a severe epidemic. “We are in uncharted territory,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday. “We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures”.

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