New Delhi: At a time when the confirmed cases of coronavirus have gone up to 66 across the country, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Wednesday night issued a fresh advisory and suspended all existing visas to the country till April 15. Also Read - Coronavirus Outbreak: IndiGo Says Fall in Bookings Will Hit Earnings
Issuing the advisory, the ministry said, “All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till April 15. This will come into effect from March 13 at the port of departure.” Also Read - 'Coronavirus Could Infect 70% of Germans,' Warns Angela Merkel as Country Reports Third Death
The Health Ministry further added that all travellers, including Indians, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days. Also Read - Coronavirus Forces Apple to Cancel Launch Event Scheuled For March-End: Reports
It also stated that the visa-free travel facility granted to OCI cardholders is kept in abeyance till April 15. “This will come into effect from March 13 at the port of departure,” it added.
In another statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the Union Home Secretary being Chairman of National Executive Committee will delegate its power under clauses of Disaster Management Act, 2005 to Secretary Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to enhance preparedness and containment of coronavirus.
The development comes after the Union cabinet secretary said all states and Union Territories should invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 by means of which all advisories issued by the Union Health Ministry and state governments from time to time are enforceable.
“It was decided that all states/UTs should be advised by MoHFW to invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 so that all advisories being issued from time to time by the Ministry of Health Welfare/State/UTs are enforceable,” the ministry said in a statement.
Apart from this, a high-level Group of Ministers (GOM) was also constituted on the directions of PM Modi to review, monitor and evaluate the preparedness and measures taken regarding the management of COVID-19.
On the other hand, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) characterised the coronavirus as a pandemic and said it is working with many partners across all sectors to mitigate the social and economic consequences of the outbreak of the virus. “WHO’s mandate is public health. But we’re working with many partners across all sectors to mitigate the social and economic consequences of this COVID19 pandemic,” the WHO said, adding, “We have made the assessment that COVID19 can be characterised as a pandemic.”