New Delhi: The number of coronavirus patients in the country has risen to 74 with 13 fresh cases, including nine from Maharashtra and one each from Delhi, Ladakh and Uttar Pradesh as well as one foreign national, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday.
Giving a state-wise breakup, the ministry said Delhi reported six positive cases and Uttar Pradesh 10. Karnataka has four cases, Maharashtra 11 and Ladakh three.
Besides, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab have reported one case each. Kerala has recorded 17 cases, including three patients who were discharged last month after they recovered from the infection declared a global pandemic.
The total number of 73 confirmed cases includes 17 foreigners, 16 Italian tourists and one more foreigner whose nationality cannot be immediately ascertained, the ministry said.
As the contagious disease with flu-like symptoms spreads across the globe, the cabinet secretary has said states and Union Territories should invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 so all advisories issued by the Union health ministry and state governments are enforceable.
An Indian team of doctors will leave for Italy on Thursday to collect and bring swab samples of Indian students stranded there so that they can be tested before being brought back to the country, Health Ministry officials had said on Wednesday.
It also said the government is undertaking measures to ensure safety and security of its citizens in Iran after it became clear that the country was facing a COVID-19 outbreak.
Indian nationals in Iran include pilgrims, students and fishermen, the ministry said.
India has evacuated 948 passengers from COVID-19 affected countries. Of these, 900 are Indian citizens and 48 from different nationalities, including from Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, US, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru, it said.
India has also suspended all visas, except a few categories such as diplomatic and employment, till April 15 in a bid to contain the coronavirus spread, according to a revised travel advisory. The suspension will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13 at the port of departure.
Schools, Colleges, Cinema Halls Shut in Delhi Till March 31
The Delhi government on Thursday declared coronavirus an epidemic and announced that all schools, colleges and cinema halls in the national capital will remain shut till March 31.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting attended by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, LG Anil Baijal and top government officials.
The chief minister said disinfecting all public places, including government and private offices and shopping malls has been made compulsory.
The national capital has so far recorded six cases of coronavirus.
COVID-19 is a 'Controllable Pandemic': WHO
In Geneva, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday that the new coronavirus outbreak "is a controllable pandemic" if countries step up measures to tackle it.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged on Wednesday that the global outbreak of the new coronavirus could now be considered a pandemic -- a disease actively spreading globally, AFP reported.
But he told diplomats in Geneva that describing the outbreak as a pandemic should not mean that countries give up the fight to stop it spreading further.
"This is a controllable pandemic," he said, according to a statement of his remarks.
"We are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it. The idea that countries should shift from containment to mitigation is wrong and dangerous," he stressed.
More than 4,500 people have died, according to an AFP tally, while the WHO said some 125,000 cases had been reported from 118 countries and territories.
"To save lives we must reduce transmission," Tedros insisted. "That means finding and isolating as many cases as possible and quarantining their closest contacts," he said, urging states to test every suspected case of COVID-19 in a bid to slow transmission.
"Even if you cannot stop transmission, you can slow it down and protect health facilities, old age homes and other vital areas -- but only if you test all suspected cases."
The majority of cases have been in China, where the outbreak emerged in December, but major hotspots have also emerged in South Korea, Iran and Italy.
Together, those four countries account for more than 90% of all reported cases, according to the WHO.
The pandemic has disrupted cultural and sporting events around the world as authorities try to prevent large gatherings.
More than $440 million (390 million euros) has been pledged towards the WHO's strategic preparedness and response plan, he added.