New Delhi: In an urgent measure over the spread of the deadly coronavirus, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has appointed a point person at the level of additional secretary to streamline international as well as domestic efforts of the government to address the rising challenges.
The additional secretary is Dammu Ravi, 1989 IFS batch, who was earlier posted in the Department of Commerce at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The post will be officially called Additional Secretary (COVID Coordinator) and will coordinate measures taken by the ministry and handle it at a global level, officials sources confirmed to ThePrint.
Sources said the decision to appoint the nodal person for handling the government’s global efforts on coronavirus was taken post the high level meeting of the group of ministers (GoM) on Wednesday.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country have shot up to 60, which includes 44 Indian and 16 foreign nationals.
Government issues revised travel advisory
The GoM, which consisted of Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri, Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar and Minister of State for Home Nityananda Rai among others, also issued a revised travel advisory putting a blanket ban on foreign visitors entering India with a few exceptions (as mentioned in the advisory).
However, there is no restriction on exiting the country.
According to the revised advisory, all existing visas, except for diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15 April.
This will come into effect from 13 March at the port of departure.
India has already evacuated several of its nationals from China, Japan and Iran. It will soon mount a flight to evacuate more from Italy.
The government also “strongly advised” Indians to avoid all non-essential travel abroad.
“International traffic through land borders will be restricted to Designated check posts with robust screening facilities,” the advisory said.
To prevent the spread of the deadly virus, the Ministry of Shipping said it will allow only such international cruise ships which had intimated their call to ports by 1 January, 2020.
The government said international cruise ships will be allowed only at ports having thermal screening facilities for passengers and crew members.
Among the fresh coronavirus cases, eight were from Kerala and one each from Delhi and Rajasthan since Tuesday, the Union health ministry said and gave state-wise breakup which included five (Delhi), nine (Uttar Pradesh), four (Karnataka) and two in Ladakh.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the global outbreak of the coronavirus as a “pandemic.”
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
In India the total number of passengers screened at the airport are 10, 57, 506. The government has already issued six travel advisories since 26 February, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.