- The victim had travelled to Saudi Arabia last month
- He had been screened on arrival but showed no symptoms that time
- More than 70 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed so far in India
A 76-year-old man who died in north Karnataka's Kalaburagi district on Tuesday has tested positive for novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Health Minister B Sriramulu said late Thursday night. This is the first case in India of a death linked to coronavirus. The news was later confirmed by the Union Health Ministry, which said the death was caused due to co-morbidity, or the presence of one or more additional medical conditions co-occurring with a primary condition
The victim had returned to India on February 29 after a month-long stay in Saudi Arabia and had been screened on arrival at Hyderabad airport. He had displayed no symptoms at that time.
"The 76-year-old man from Kalaburagi who passed away and was a suspected COVID-19 patient has been confirmed for COVID-19. Contact tracing (of family members and others he came in contact with), isolation and other measures, as per protocol, are being carried out," Mr Sriramulu tweeted.
On March 5, the man went to a private hospital in the district and was admitted the following day with fever and cough. He had other health issues as well, including asthma and hypertension. Three days later he was shifted to a hospital in Hyderabad, where his samples were sent for testing.
At this point, according to the government, the man's family discharged him before test results and against medical advice. As per instructions of Kalaburagi Deputy Commissioner, health officers tried to persuade them to admit the patient to an isolation ward at the Gulbarga Institute of Medical Sciences.
The family refused and transferred him to another hospital, from where he was treated and discharged. He died while being brought back to the hospital in Kalaburagi.
The 76 year old man from Kalburgi who passed away & was a suspected #COVID19 patient has been Confirmed for #COVID19. The necessary contact tracing, isolation & other measures as per protocol are being carried out.— B Sriramulu (@sriramulubjp) March 12, 2020
A fifth confirmed case was reported from the state on Thursday. All infected individuals are in hospital and stable, the government has said.
The newest patient - 26-year-old man who is a Google employee and who had returned from Greece - has been placed in isolation at a Bengaluru hospital, Mr Sriramulu said.
"Primary contacts (of the 26-year old man) have been traced and are asymptomatic. Home quarantine has been advised and follow-up is being done," he was quoted by news agency PTI.
The Art of Living foundation, which is based in Karnataka, has closed doors to visitors till March 25. Church authorities have discussed preventive measures, even though large congregations are fewer now during this season of Lent. Crowds at temples have dwindled as over fears about large gatherings.
Meanwhile, several people from the state are among the hundreds of Indians stranded at airports in Italy, one of the worst-hit countries in the world.
Thousands more are stranded in Iran. On Tuesday an Air Force plane brought back 58 Indians from the Middle East country, with more expected to evacuated shortly.
Stock markets reacted sharply to fears over the coronavirus outbreak, with the Sensex and Nifty suffering their biggest ever single-day selloffs ever. The losses mirrored those in global markets.
Over 80 cases of COVID-19 infection have been confirmed by the Union Health Ministry so far, including 17 foreigners in isolation in Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. More than 11 lakh people have been screened at airports across the country.
As part of its response, the government has shut borders to existing visas - except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment and project - till April 15.
On Thursday evening the Delhi government said schools, colleges and cinema halls would be shut till March 31. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's administration, which has declared the outbreak an "epidemic", had shut primary schools earlier this month; secondary schools had been left open in view of exams.
The move mirrors that made by the Kerala government, which is on high alert, on Wednesday; all movie theatres have been closed till the end of the month. Schools and colleges were similarly shut.
Kerala, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are among the worst-affected states, with 19, 14 and 10 confirmed cases reported so far, according to the Union Health Ministry.
Kerala is, so far, the only state in which infected patients have been cured; the first three coronavirus patients in the country were from the southern state and have been cured.
The COVID-19 outbreak originated in a food market in China's Wuhan district in December last year and has, so far, killed more than 5,000 people while infecting 100,000 more.
The World Health Organisation has declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, meaning it has spread worldwide and affected huge number of people.
In a series of tweets, the WHO said it was "deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity (of the virus), and by the alarming levels of inaction".