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Refrain from travelling to China: Health Ministry

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on January 29, 2020 Published on January 29, 2020

IndiGo suspends some China routes; AYUSH raises eyebrows with ‘health’ advisory

As the global coronavirus outbreak reaches serious proportions, the Health Ministry, in a new travel advisory on Wednesday, asked Indians to refrain from travelling to China.

According to the latest WHO statistics, 4,593 coronavirus cases have been confirmed globally, of which 4,537 cases and 106 deaths were from China. The balance 56 cases have been confirmed from 14 countries — Nepal, Sri Lanka, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, France, Germany, Australia, Canada and the US.

IndiGo said in a statement on Wednesday it is suspending flights to China on the Delhi-Chengdu route from February 1 to February 20. It is also suspending services on the Bengaluru-Hong Kong route from February 1 onwards. However, the airline will continue to operate the Kolkata-Guangzhou route, which is being monitored on a daily basis.

Precautionary measures

The virus, about whose origins little is known, mimics the symptoms of the common flu — acute onset of fever, cough and shortness of breath. The Health Ministry has advised Indians returning after visiting China in the last 14 days to report to the airport health unit of the Immigration department immediately if they suffer from any of the symptoms.

Those who develop the symptoms within 28 days of travel should contact their nearest hospital and further report it to the State and district health authorities, it added.

As part of preventive measures, the Ministry has recommended good personal hygiene, close monitoring of health, and quick medical attention in case of sickness.

It has also expressed concern over the numerous fake videos and social media forwards during the rounds. Some of these advise home cures for tackling coronavirus, including drinking rasam and avoiding ‘ice colas’. There are also videos showing people in China allegedly eating live rodents despite the health warnings.

The Health Ministry has set up a 24×7 helpline (+91 –11 –23978046) to address queries.

AYUSH at odds?

Meanwhile, in what may be a classic case of possible overstepping of mandate and lack of coordination, the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH), in a separate press advisory, said one should stay home if sick, which is in direct contrast to the Health Ministry’s appeal to contact health authorities.

While little is known about coronavirus, AYUSH advises people to drink shadanga paniya, an Ayurvedic preparation, and advises suspected patients, among other things, to place sesame oil in their nostrils. The advisory further goes on to say that Arsenicum album 30, a Homeopathy drug, can be used to prevent coronavirus. “The dose should be repeated after one month by following the same schedule in case coronavirus infections prevail in the community,” AYUSH states.

The Ministry has further released a list of Unani cures including rose petals, neem bark and cinnamon.

Experts have termed AYUSH’s claims ‘pseudo-scientific’. Calling the AYUSH advisory ‘ill-advised’, bioethics researcher Anant Bhan said: “To claim preventive efficacy or symptomatic management without any kind of evidence when not a lot is known about the virus — and there is a chance of rumour mongering and panic — reflects poorly on the AYUSH Ministry.”

Published on January 29, 2020
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