A regional health emergency has been declared in the Indian state of Kerala after a third case of a lethal virus gripping China was confirmed there, prompting officials to take harsher action against those evading screenings.
The “state calamity” was announced by Kerala’s health minister KK Shailaja, who noted the designation was not meant to “trigger panic,” but rather “to create more awareness” about the fast-moving contagion, which has claimed 427 lives and infected over 20,000 worldwide since December.
With three confirmed cases in the country, India has begun to take steps to contain the outbreak, but Shailaja said some returning from China continue to sidestep health checks and warned there would be legal consequences for anyone caught doing so.
“Despite our vigilance, it is sad some returnees dodge health officials. It is really dangerous,” the minister said. “If they continue to do this we will treat it as a crime. We need cooperation of all to tide over the crisis.”
Over 2,200 Indians remain under observation for signs of the illness – which like its viral cousin, SARS, causes severe pneumonia-like symptoms – with another 84 already admitted to hospitals. A number of those under observation recently returned from China aboard two specially-equipped Air India flights sent to the country evacuate Indian citizens, many of them students studying abroad. Another 3,000 students remain in China, Shailaja said.
The novel coronavirus, dubbed nCoV19, has been confirmed in at least 25 countries, infecting some 188 beyond mainland China, where the vast majority of fatalities have been observed – with the exception of one Chinese national who traveled to the Philippines before succumbing to the illness. While there is not yet a vaccine or specific cure for the virus, at least 500 patients have recovered after being treated with a “cocktail” of HIV and other antiviral medicines.
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