Large-scale screening of passengers at airports, a robust quarantine system and messages intended to increase awareness about the novel coronavirus reaching the people are among the factors that have helped India steer clear of the deadly virus so far, doctors said.
Coronavirus cases have spread to nearly 50 countries and territories with the virus now rapidly affecting more and more people outside China. Globally, over 80,000 cases have been reported. However, in India, apart from the three cases in Kerala, there has been no reports of fresh conronavirus cases.
The three people who got infected by the virus were discharged from the hospital after they recovered, bringing the current coronavirus cases in India to zero.
"India has adopted stringent screening measures at all ports and put in place a robust quarantine system to deal with suspected coronavirus cases," Harshal R. Salve, Associate Professor, Centre for Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, told IANS.
However, given the rapid spread of coronavirus to newer territories, India cannot let its guard down.
The World Health Organization's (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has already warned that it would be a fatal mistake for any country to assume that it will not get hit by novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
"Even though India shares its borders with China and Pakistan, there have only been three confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country (Kerala). Even the three who were infected are now completely fine and have been discharged. There are many reasons for this," said Vivek Nangia, pulmonologist at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, Vasant Kunj.
"The first is that once alerted, India immediately began large scale screening at all it's international airports. Patients were tested for coronavirus using thermal scanners and those who were suspected of symptoms were immediately isolated and quarantined," Nangia said.
Monitoring and restricting the mobility of passengers travelling from highly affected areas has also helped.
Apart from that, several notifications were issued on how one could be affected by coronavirus, what the symptoms were and which preventive measures could be adopted.
"Due to the repeated messaging and awareness being spread by the Indian healthcare sector, people realised that handwashing and adoption of proper coughing etiquette were paramount in tackling the epidemic," Nangia said.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had on Thursday hailed the coordination between various wings of the government for the evacuation of Indians and foreign nationals from coronavirus-hit zones.
Health Ministry officials of the rank of Joint Secretary and above are visiting the states to assess their preparedness to tackle COVID-19.
"High efficiency laboratories in Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Delhi enabled the government to conduct the large scale screening process. Awareness, alertness and access are the reasons why India didn't suffer as badly as its neighbours," Nangia said.
"India remains immune to coronavirus owing to the strict surveillance on tourists flying from abroad. The authorities have taken utmost care by restricting the movement of people suspected of having coronavirus by admitting them to isolation wards.
"The suspected patients were discharged only after making sure that they didn't exhibit any signs or symptoms of the aforesaid condition," said Nikhil Modi from the Department of Respiratory, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.
Coronavirus cases are escalating fast in countries such as South Korea, Iran, Italy and Japan and there are fears that the outbreak could be declared a pandemic.
According to WHO, the coronavirus outbreak has reached a "decisive point" and has "pandemic potential" as the toll in China increased to 2,788 on Friday.