New Delhi: The government of India on Wednesday suspended all visas to India as the cases of coronavirus in the country sharply spiked. Altogether, 67 people have contracted the virus -- a chunk of them are a group of tourists from Italy.
In an order issued this evening, the Union health ministry said all existing visas -- diplomatic, official, UN/International organizations, employment, project visas -- will be suspended till April 15. "This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure. Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian mission," a communique reads.
Meanwhile, expressing increasing alarm about mounting infections, the World Health Organization on Wednesday declared that the global coronavirus crisis is now a pandemic.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who heads the UN agency, said the WHO is “deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity” of the outbreak. He also expressed concern about the alarming levels of inaction. “We have, therefore, made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” he said at a briefing in Geneva.
“All countries can still change the course of this pandemic. If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response,” Tedros said.
Two test positive in Mumbai
An elderly couple have tested positive in the preliminary test for coronavirus in Mumbai at civic-run Kasturba Gandhi Hospital. Their final status will be known only after confirmation from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.
A 70-year-old man and his 68-year-old wife, who are both suspected to be infected, had accompanied a Pune-based couple to Dubai last week. After test reports for the elderly couple were found positive in the preliminary test, the state health department identified forty of their fellow passengers and quarantined them at their respective district-level hospitals.
India closes a border
India ramped up travel restrictions and closed a border with neighbouring Myanmar to counter the coronavirus outbreak, as countries across South Asia reported a rise in cases on Wednesday. According to official sources, the border with India’s eastern neighbour Myanmar, although no cases have so far been confirmed there yet. “As a precautionary measure to prevent transmission of Coronavirus/COVID-19, the international border with Myanmar has been closed... until further orders,” N. Biren Singh, chief minister of the north-eastern state of Manipur, which shares a border with Myanmar, said in a tweet on Tuesday.
The virus has hit Europe and the United States far harder than China’s most immediate neighbours in South Asia, where no one has yet died. But as the number of cases in the region topped 80, experts fear that its overstretched medical systems may not be able to handle the type of intensive care required.
Indian suspended issuing visas to citizens of France, Spain and Germany until further notice, a health ministry statement said late on Tuesday. Such restrictions are already in place for citizens of China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea - the five countries worst hit by the outbreak of the virus.
It also closed In Afghanistan, the number of confirmed cases rose to 7 from 4, the country’s health ministry said on Wednesday. Bangladesh’s High Court has directed the government to take measures to curb the soaring prices of masks and sanitizers, after it reported its first three cases of the virus on Sunday. Two of those cases have since tested negative.
Italian coronavirus deaths jump 36% to 631
The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has jumped by 168 to 631, an increase of 36%, the Civil Protection Agency said on Tuesday, the largest rise in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on February 21. The total number of cases in Italy rose to 10,149 from a previous 9,172, an increase of 10.7%. (Inputs from Agencies)
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