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Outside China, there have been more than 350 infections reported in almost 30 places with two deaths, one in the Philippines and the other in Hong Kong.

Expressing concern over instances of coronavirus infection among people with no travel history to China, the head of the World Health Organization has warned that the small number of cases could be the “spark that becomes a bigger fire”, urging the countries to use the “window of opportunity” to contain the novel virus that has killed over 1,000 people.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said while the spread of the respiratory disease appeared to be slow, it could accelerate. His remarks have come a day after he warned the overseas coronavirus spread may be “tip of the iceberg”. “In recent days we have seen some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China, like the cases reported in France yesterday and the UK today. The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire,” Ghebreyesus said in Geneva on Monday.

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He said the detection of this small number of cases for now was only a spark and the objective for countries “remains containment”. “We call on all countries to use the window of opportunity that we have to prevent a bigger fire,” he said. The death toll in China’s novel coronavirus outbreak has gone up to 1,016 with 108 new fatalities reported mostly in the worst-affected Hubei province while the confirmed cases of infection have soared to 42,638, Chinese health officials said on Tuesday.

Outside China, there have been more than 350 infections reported in almost 30 places with two deaths, one in the Philippines and the other in Hong Kong. Apart from Germany, Britain and Italy, other European nations with cases of the virus include France, Russia, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Spain. The overall pattern of infections has not changed, Ghebreyesus said, adding that 99 per cent of the reported cases were in China, and most cases are mild.

WHO’s Director of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases Sylvie Briand said that 80 per cent of cases displayed mild symptoms, 15 per cent were severe – developing into pneumonia – and three to five per cent required intensive care. “This is of course too many,” the WHO chief said of the fatalities, noting that many questions still needed answering, such as where the outbreak was growing and where it was getting better or worse.

As part of measures to coordinate an international response to the epidemic, on Sunday, Tedros confirmed that WHO had sent an advance team of international epidemiology experts to Beijing, to assist the authorities with the outbreak. Leading them is Bruce Aylward, a WHO veteran outbreak expert, who recently coordinated the agency’s response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. His job will be to “lay the groundwork” for a larger international team of experts which is expected to follow to China, Tedros said.

WHO’s other measures have included equipping laboratories in some 14 countries with kits to “fast diagnose” infections, including to Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Tunisia and Zambia. This was essential to being able to identify coronavirus infections which can resemble other respiratory bugs, the WHO chief said.

To date, WHO has identified 168 labs around as having the right technology to identify the coronavirus. On concerns that the incubation period for the coronavirus could easily be as long as 24 days, WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme chief Michael Ryan said that the agency was not considering changing the current 14-day quarantine requirement period.

The UN health agency also reported that all crew and passengers on board a cruise ship harboured in Yokohama, Japan, were being quarantined for a 14-day period on board. Their quarantine period will come to an end on February 19, but will be extended for any close contacts of newly confirmed cases, WHO said.

Besides the woman, two other Keralite students from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus that has claimed over 1,000 lives in China, had tested positive in Alappuzha and Kasaragod districts. (Reuters)

In a sign of relief to Kerala, India’s first novel coronavirus patient has tested negative for the infection in fresh test at the National Institute of Virology’s local centre in the state, health officials said. However, an official announcement on the ‘recovery’ of the patient, a woman medical student from Thrissur, would be made only after her blood test result from NIV at Pune confirm the findings of the Alappuzha centre, they said Monday night.

The condition of the student was “stable”, the officials said. She had tested positive for the virus on her return from Wuhan in China recently and been undergoing treatment in the isolation ward of a government medical hospital.

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According to the state health department, a total of 31 people with symptoms of the coronavirus are in isolation wards across various hospitals in the state as of now. “The blood test result of the first patient from Thrissur from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) testing centre at Alappuzha shows a negative result. But we need confirmation from the NIV at Pune,” a senior medical officer told PTI.

Besides the woman, two other Keralite students from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus that has claimed over 1,000 lives in China, had tested positive in Alappuzha and Kasaragod districts. “A total of 3,367 are under observation across the state, of which 3,336 are under home quarantine,” a release issued by the health department said on Monday.

The department has already sent at least 364 samples for testing at the NIV at Pune and so far 337 results have returned negative.

The ‘state calamity’ alert, declared by the government on February 3 after the third student tested positive for the virus, was withdrawn on Friday with no fresh cases of the infection being detected.

Passengers landing in India from countries like Thailand, China, Singapore and Hongkong are being screened aggressively.

After two-three days, the second victim of Coronavirus in Kerala gets the clean chit as the test results came out negative twice. As a result, the patient was discharged from the hospital. The student has become the second person in India who is recovered from the infection, PTI reported citing state’s health authority. It also said that the third patient who was Kasaragod, who has been tested positive for the novel Coronavirus will be quarantined for ten days. The state has kept around 2,000 people under observation including the three positive cases reported.

Last week, the student from Alappuzha was relieved as his two consecutive samples sent for testing came back negative. The state has been sending out test samples to National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune. Both of these students discharged had come from Wuhan, the epicentre of Coronavirus in China. The country’s first Coronavirus case, on the other hand, is still waiting on the test results to come back from Pune NIV. According to the health ministry, once the lastest result comes out to be negative, the patient will be discharged.

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Meanwhile, of the total people under surveillance in Kerala, 16 patients were kept in hospital’s isolated wards while remaining 2,100 people were quarantined at home, KK Shailaja, Health Minister of Kerala had said in a statement yesterday. Even in Delhi, around 5,700 passengers were approached till February 13 for possible traces of Coronavirus. Out these people, about 4,700 people have been advised to stay at home, while, 17 people showing symptoms had been hospitalised, PTI had reported. Passengers landing in India from countries like Thailand, China, Singapore and Hongkong are being screened aggressively for any possible exposure to this fatal disease. The screenings are currently being done at 21 airports in India.