So far over 30 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus in India (File)
Amid the outbreak of the infectious novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, in the country, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has said employees of airlines or the Airport Authority of India (AAI) must be examined by a medical personal for symptoms before they are subject to breath analyser (BA) tests that involve blowing into a machine.
The move has been announced to check the spread of the coronavirus, as it will minimise contact between possibly infected personnel and their healthy colleagues. The virus is believed to spread via tiny droplets as an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Personnel listed in a notification issued by Maneesh Kumar, Deputy Director General of the DGCA, include pilots and cabin crew, as well as staff working airside on the ground.
Should they exhibit symptoms associated with the coronavirus – fever, cold, cough, a running nose – they are to be removed from duty and undergo a detailed examination. They will be allowed to return to active duty only after having been declared fully fit.
In the notification the DGCA also said personnel exhibiting symptoms would be exempt from appearing for otherwise-mandatory BA tests.
This order is effective till March 13.
The DGCA issued this notification on coronavirus today
A total of 31 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in India; the 31st, a man who had travelled to Thailand and Malaysia was reported today. The confirmed cases include 16 Italian tourists who were part of a group of 23 that travelled to Rajasthan last month.
The government has scrambled to stop the outbreak from spreading any further, with a number of measures being instituted. These include mandatory screening of all passengers flying into India from foreign destinations, after it was found that a Delhi man infected with the virus had inadvertently slipped through the net after arriving on a flight from Austria, a country not seen as a coronavirus hotspot.
The crew of the Air India flight that flew the Delhi patient was later ordered to stay in isolation at their homes for 14 days. The passengers were issued a similar advisory.
Other measures include the closure of all primary schools in Delhi till March 31, and the suspension of biometric attendance systems in central (and Delhi) government offices.
Amid the rising number of cases Prime Minister Modi cancelled a trip to Brussels for the India-European Union (EU) summit. The government has also moved to cancel official Holi celebrations across the country, following medical advice to avoid large gatherings.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi wrote to Chief Ministers of party-ruled states today to take appropriate measures and prepare a plan to ensure the virus does not spread.