Kerala declares alert amid coronavirus scare; screening at all airports

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With a significant exposure of its students to coronavirus-hit Chinese cities, Kerala has officially declared an alert against the deadly disease, which is not only showing any signs of abating but spreading to new areas outside the mainland.

The state health authorities have enforced strict monitoring of passengers coming from other countries, with the arrangements of thermal screening at all seven international airports in the state. As the disease has spread to countries such as the United States, Taiwan and other Asian countries, all passengers arriving from different countries are being screened for suspected cases.

As many as 288 people have returned to the state from the affected cities in China, particularly Wuhan, which is a Chinese educational hub that attracts international students.

Of them, seven suspected patients have been moved to hospitals, while the remaining are under observation at their own residences. Blood samples of suspected cases have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune for tests.

Hospital authorities say that the condition of all the seven admitted to hospitals is stable and there is no cause of concern as of now.

The state government has issued strict guidelines to be followed by people, particularly in public places. The importance of personal hygiene and the practice of washing hands periodically is being widely publicised as a measure of precaution.

The maximum number of affected persons are in Kozhikode, followed by Ernakulam, Kollam and Malappuram districts. All districts, except Idukki, have at least a few students who have come from China.

A large number of students from Kerala and Tamil Nadu go to Chinese universities in pursuit of higher education, particularly for medical degree. But the majority are from Kerala, studying in medical colleges in Wuhan and neighbouring places.

Medical students are said to be most vulnerable, as the disease claimed a high toll of doctors and nurses who have treated the affected patients. Students pursuing medical degrees use the hospitals for their practical training.

While a large number of the Kerala students have managed to return, some are said to be stuck in their hostels due to suspension of bus, rail and ferry services due to the spread of the disease. As the colleges are closed for holidays, many students returned to their homes, but those who got stuck are facing a big problem, including refusal by restaurants to entertain foreigners.

Earlier, on Sunday, three people who were admitted to Kasturba hospital for possible exposure to coronavirus had been tested negative for the infection. Their samples were sent to the NIV for testing who later declared them as safe.

However, the hospital has kept them under observation and will discharge them after the state and union government formulate the discharge policy.

In a similar incident, a suspected case of coronavirus has been reported in Rajasthan, following which the patient has been kept in isolation, state Health Minister Raghu Sharma said on Sunday.

He said a doctor, who returned to India after completing the MBBS course in China, was kept in isolation at the SMS Hospital here on the suspicion of being affected by coronavirus.

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