coronavirus: Legal action will be taken against those defying 14-day quarantine norms: GoM


New Delhi: A Legal action would be initiated against those who have returned from abroad and are flouting the 14-day quarantine period advised to them to control the spread of coronavirus, said a Group of Ministers which on Wednesday reviewed the actions for management of the contagion.

Addressing a press briefing on the current COVID-19 situation in the country, a senior health ministry official reiterated that there has been no community transmission of the disease even as the number of cases rose to 606 on Wednesday with 10 deaths being recorded across the country.

Highlighting the critical importance of social distancing as an effective strategy for limiting the spread of the disease, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan who chaired the GoM on Wednesday appealed once again to all those in home and facility quarantine to follow the protocol laid down by the ministry.

He said around 64,000 people have arrived in India from other countries since March 21 out of which 8,000 have been put in various quarantine facilities and 56,000 are in home isolation.

“We are fighting an infectious disease. In order to protect ourselves and others, it is highly important that we follow all the protocols, guidelines and directions issued by the government, failing which legal action may be taken,” he said.

While assuring that the government is making all efforts to ensure that personal stocks of protective equipment (PPE) and N-95 masks are available in adequate numbers to help the medical fraternity carry out their job, the health ministry officials said most of these have some imported components.

“We are already aware that there had been disruption in import of certain components required for PPEs and masks. The government has been aware of the situation from the time cases started happening in other parts of world,” Lav Agarwal, Joint secretary in the health ministry said, adding that the government had banned the export of masks-PPEs as early as on January 31.

“We have also started analysing the technical guidelines with respect to what type of PPEs can be put to use based on the type of virus we are dealing with. We are also analysing the suppliers available within the country and taking their support to ensure that we can get production through these indigenous buyers also,” he said.

The official said as part of the exercise, they have contacted key research agencies DRDO and Bharat Electrical Limited to ensure that there is sufficient availability of the equipment in India.

Agarwal further said 29 National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL)-accredited private laboratory chains with over 16,000 sample collection centres have been given permission so far for testing for COVID-19.

He also said the private labs will have to follow ICMR guidelines and sample collection norms while testing for COVID-19.

Besides private labs, 119 government laboratories are operational for testing for COVID-19 and have a capacity to test 12,000 samples per day.

The official reiterated that hydroxy-chloroquine can be given as a preventive medication only to healthcare workers dealing with suspected or confirmed cases and household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.

“No one else should use this. Moreover, the medicine should not be taken unless prescribed as it has some side effects,” Agarwal said.

According to officials, the ministry of home affairs is monitoring the lockdown through a control room and the state and district authorities have been asked to promote e-commerce activity to provide essential items at doorsteps to ensure minimum movement of people.

Authorities have also been asked to ensure that essential goods and services reach people, officials said.

The health ministry, in its updated figures on Wednesday morning, stated that the second death reported in Delhi was COVID-19 negative, thus revising the death toll to one in the national capital.

When quizzed about this, the official said, “First we had assumed that the person who has expired was positive as his sample was under testing. But the second re-corfirmation test came negative and so we revised the death toll.”