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Delhi govt. declares coronavirus an epidemic; shuts cinema halls, schools and colleges

By PTI Updated: Mar 12, 2020 11:34 pm
A medic checks the temperature of a tourist as part of precautionary screening in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, at a hotel in Bikaner on Thursday. (PTI)

New Delhi, March 12 (PTI): The Delhi government on Thursday declared coronavirus an epidemic and shut all cinema halls, schools and colleges, except those where exams are on, till March 31.

The government also made it compulsory to disinfect all public places, including government and private offices and shopping malls, every day in the national capital.

The decision was taken at a high-level meeting attended by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, LG Anil Baijal and top government officials.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, the chief minister said the Delhi government was making arrangements for quarantine facilities at vacant flats owned by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) and under-construction hospitals.

“All cinema halls will remain shut till March 31. Also, all schools and colleges, except those where exams are being held, will remain shut till March 31 due to coronavirus. The government has declared coronavirus an epidemic,” he said.

He said that his government is fully prepared to deal with COVID-19, asserting that more than 500 beds in hospitals are ready to admit coronavirus patients if needed.

In the meeting, measures taken so far to tackle coronavirus were reviewed, Kejriwal said.

“Whatever we are doing is to deal with coronavirus. I hope that all will support us. In the entire world, coronaviurs is rapidly increasing, but in India, we all have so far been able to contain it. If we are cautious, we can save our country from coronavirus,” he said.

After the meeting, Baijal tweeted, “Reviewed preparedness to contain the COVID – 19 in Delhi with Hon’ble CM @ArvindKejriwal, Hon’ble Health Minister @SatyendarJain, CS, Delhi & other officers.Decision taken to close schools, colleges, cinema halls, etc. for sometime to minimise the possibility of spread.”

The number of coronavirus patients in the country has risen to 74 with 14 fresh cases, including a foreign national. The national capital has so far recorded six cases of coronavirus.

Will take one-and-a-half to two years for India to develop vaccine for COVID-19 — Health Ministry

Senior health ministry officials said on Thursday that it will take around one-and-a-half to two years for India to develop a vaccine for novel coronavirus even with expedited clinical trials.

The novel coronavirus has affected 73 people in the country, including 17 foreign nationals.

The 17 affected foreign nationals include 16 Italians and a Canadian patient.

Raman R Gangakhedkar, head of the Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases-I (ECD-I), Division of ICMR said the National Institute of Virology in Pune has been successful in isolating the virus.

“There are two ways of going for vaccine preparation. One is either you look at the sequences of the gene which then may lead to development of antibodies, or you actually have the strain and then you try to develop a vaccine which is always an easier option,” he said.

“Coronavirus is difficult to isolate. But the efforts of scientists of National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune have been successful and about 11 isolates of coronavirus are available which is a prime requisite for doing any kind of research related to viruses. Even with expedited clinical trials and approvals, it will take around one-and-a-half to two years to develop a vaccine,” Gangakhedkar asserted.

The official said the Indian government has made 52 laboratories functional for testing samples, while 57 labs have been designated for helping in sample collection for COVID-19 to enhance capacity for diagnosis and detection of the disease.

“We have around 1 lakh testing kits and additional kits have been ordered,” another health ministry official said.

The health ministry on Thursday asked people not to panic in the wake of increasing number of coronavirus cases in the country saying the focus is on preventive approach and there are adequate facilities available for testing.

By PTI Updated: Mar 12, 2020 11:34:55 pm