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An Indian doctor checks the foreign (German) tourists at coronavirus screening camp in Lakhanpur 92km from Jammu on Wednesday. Image Credit: AP

New Delhi: Anil Kumar, 36, who works as a clerk at one of the banks in Delhi on Monday evening rushed to a medical store to buy half-a-dozen face masks for his family, soon after scrolling through a news feed on his mobile which flashed details of a coronavirus case being detected in Delhi. Shares sank steeply as the news of the disease spread like wildfire. Anil himself believes it’s an emergency situation in Delhi, and the worst is yet to come.

“I never gave a second thought about buying a mask amid the severe pollution [in Delhi], but when I think about coronavirus it sends a chill down my spine. I’ve watched scary videos on Facebook - and how people collapsed in the streets of China. It’s a threat for the world in general, which requires timely action from advanced countries,” Anil told Gulf News.

Stocks running low

As India gears up to tackle the Covid-19, people thronged to stores to buy face masks amid possible spread of the virus. In the space of two days, mini-stores and medical outlets have sold over 20,000 N95 respirators in parts of Delhi.

“There is shortage of normal masks now. Considering the large number of sales, we’re ordering in bulk to meet the demands of customers,” said one of the medical shop owners.

To the surprise of many, the coronavirus has reached one-third of the globe in 90 days since the outbreak was first reported.

Apart from the Italian patient, two other cases were detected in India on March 2. The patient from New Delhi had the travel history of Italy and Austria, while the third case was from the southern state of Telangana.

Fifteen Italian citizens in India have tested positive for coronavirus, media said on Wednesday.

Two private schools in Noida were shut on Tuesday, hotel staff placed under quarantine and visa rules revised as India stepped up measures to fight the spread of coronavirus.

In the wake of fresh coronavirus cases across different states of India, the government is wrestling with what to do to provide prompt medical assistance to those affected, in a bid to contain a threat to already wobbly stock markets.

Ajay Mishra, 31, who works at a multinational company in Gurugram, has preferred to stay indoors. He also suffers from chronic respiratory problems, given the pollution levels in Delhi.

Many people have requested the government to take stock of the situation at the earliest. They further maintained that precautionary measures should be taken by school administrations for them to send their children to schools.

Amid the chaos, as many as three schools were shut in Noida.

Addressing the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested people to maintain calm. “There is no need to panic. We need to work together, take small yet important measures to ensure self-protection,” Modi tweeted after as many as three cases were reported across India.

Also, based on an extensive evaluation, Modi assured people that the government is working closely to monitor the situation in the country.

Action plan to fight coronavirus

The Indian government has revised the travel advisory by cancelling visas for citizens of the worst affected countries including China, Japan, Iran, South Korea and Italy.

Isolation wards have already been set up in India. In Uttar Pradesh, 800 beds were made available to tackle the contagion in the country, which has a population of 1.37 billion. Apart from this, Delhi has separate 3,000 beds available.

India had already facilitated quarantine centres in Manesar and Chawla.

“As far as the situation is concerned, it’s under control. Yes, we’ve detected some cases, but at the same time, we’re talking stringent measures, and those patients who showed Covid-19 symptoms are being monitored,” Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Vardhan told Gulf News over the phone.

Earlier, three cases of coronavirus infections were reported from Kerala, however, doctors said all three of them have recovered after been quarantined in homes.

Pertinently, since December the Indian authorities had screened over one million people from 12 countries. Subsequently, the government has advised people to refrain from travel to foreign countries.

Precautionary measures

When asked is India well-equipped to handle health crisis, DR Karan Madan, Senior pulmonologist at AIIMS Delhi, maintained that the public should take precautionary measures to ensure their safety.

“We should avoid close contact and it’s high-time to fight this together. I request people to avoid travelling to Covid-19 hit countries and follow what WHO has laid out a list of do’s and don’ts,” Madan stated.

–Tahir Ibn Manzoor is a journalist based-out in New Delhi. He tweets @TahirIbnManzoor