Telangana on alert as SE Asia sees spike in COVID-19 cases

Given the densely populated urban centres, even a bunch of positive cases in any Indian State could pose a huge threat

By Author  |  Published: 24th Feb 2020  12:23 amUpdated: 24th Feb 2020  12:35 am

Hyderabad: The spike in cases of COVID-19 in South East Asia, especially Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and countries closer to India like Nepal and Sri Lanka has put the surveillance teams and public health officials in Hyderabad and districts on a state of high alert.

The incessant reporting of COVID-19 positive cases in neighbouring countries has triggered a sense of uneasiness among the community of health care workers who are directly involved in field-level surveillance measures at international airport in Shamshabad and those visiting homes of persons in home isolation.

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Has COVID-19 slipped surveillance?

The unease also stems from the possibility that COVID-19 might have already spread into the community by somehow slipping through the elaborate surveillance systems. Given the challenges like densely populated urban centres, lack of awareness on personal hygiene and deficient infrastructure, senior public health officials in Telangana now agree that even a cluster or a bunch of COVID-19 positive cases in any Indian State could pose a huge threat.
“So far, we have not received a single positive case of COVID-19. However, there is every indication that COVID-19 has become pandemic, as new countries continue to report cases. Almost all our neighbouring countries have reported COVID -19 and it appears as if it is a matter of time before a cluster or a group of patients test positive in India,” senior health officials said.

Will temperature play a role?

Public health officials here have acknowledged that high temperatures during this part of the year could be the saving factor. “The only differentiating or saving factor, when compared to other countries where COVID is getting reported is temperatures. We are hoping that high temperatures could somehow play an important role in transmitting COVID-19. We have managed to handle swine flu cases but handling 2019-CoV cases will be very difficult,” health officials here point out.

Why COVID-19 in Italy and Iran worrisome for States in India?

Another major reason for unease among disease surveillance experts in Telangana and elsewhere are the instances of spread of the ailment in countries that have reported COVID-19 cases but the persons who tested positive for 2019-nCOV do not have a travel history to China. Italy and Iran, both have reported a spike in COVID-19 positive cases and even fatalities. However, the persons who had tested positive for novel coronavirus did not have a travel history to China. “There are numerous questions that are still to be explained in a scientific way. At the moment, we have asked all our surveillance teams to be on high alert,” health officials said.

COVID-19 in neighbouring countries

In the last few days, there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases in almost all the neighbouring countries in South East Asia including Vietnam (16 confirmed cases), Thailand (35 cases), Philippines (3) and one each COVID positive case from Nepal and Sri Lanka. So far, in Singapore, nearly 89 persons have tested positive for COVID-19 out of which four persons were critical while 49 persons were discharged and 40 others were still in isolation and receiving treatment from health care workers.

With Singapore being a major tourism and work-related destination among Indians, especially among families in South India, health officials here are quite wary about the spread of the ailment. On its part, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a travel advisory. ‘Citizens are advised to avoid all non-essential travel to Singapore,’ the travel advisory said. It has also been decided to further expand universal screening for flights from Kathmandu, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, as these countries to have started reporting COVID-19 positive cases.

Surveillance in Hyderabad

So far, the health officials in Hyderabad have screened 12,159 travellers at Shamshabad international airport. Nearly 254 persons were still in home quarantine for 28 days and 101 samples were taken from passengers and all of them have come negative. One passenger completed 28 days in observation at Gandhi Hospital while two more patients were still admitted to Gandhi Hospital.

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