Thermal sensors have been installed at the Amritsar airport in Punjab to screen incoming passengers for the novel coronavirus infection that, though largely restricted to China, has triggered a global scare with cases being reported as far as the US and Europe. Similar screening measures will begin from Mohali airport from tomorrow. No positive case of infection has been detected in the state so far, although suspected cases - none of which have reported positive so far - have been reported from Kerala and Maharashtra.
"The Department of Health has alerted airports at Amritsar and Mohali to display advisory for passengers of international flights for self-declaration regarding visit to China and other countries from where cases of coronavirus have been reported," Balbir Singh Sidhu, the Health Minister said.
Mr Sidhu said the thermal sensors installed at the Raja Sansi Airport in Amritsar would detect abnormally high temperatures in passengers, who would then be taken to a medical centre for further examination by a team of doctors.
Passengers displaying symptoms like fever and breathing problems would be further supervised, the minister added.
Mr Sidhu, who also reviewed the state's preparedness in terms of logistics, isolation wards, ventilators and other equipment, advised the public not to panic.
He pointed out that only four people had reported travel to China in this period (three from Amritsar and one from Mohali) and all four had been declared asymptomatic by the Department of Health.
The minister urged anybody else who had travelled to China in the last 28 days to report this to the nearest district hospital or dial a helpline number - 104 - for further assistance. He also urged citizens to contact the same number for any information related to the virus.
According to the Union Health Ministry, 29,700 passengers were screened across seven airports in the country till Sunday. No positive cases have been detected but at least 100 people have been kept under observation in Kerala and Maharashtra for possible exposure.
The outbreak that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has killed over 80 people in China so far and infected more than 2,750 globally; most of these are in China.
Despite several cases being reported outside China, the World Health Organisation has stopped short of declaring the new virus, which has caused alarm because of its similarity to the SARS virus that killed nearly 800 people in mainland China and Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003, a global health emergency.
Scientists hope to be testing the first possible vaccines in three months' time. China is testing the HIV drug Aluvia as a treatment.