Starting from Saturday, all international travellers entering the country will have to undergo a mandatory thermal screening for the Ebola virus disease (EVD).
The decision has been taken in accordance with the government of India’s nine-point guideline for EVD preparedness. In a state-level review meeting held at the directorate of health services office on Friday, the authorities took cognisance of the new national guidelines for the disease. Until now, travellers from five West African countries, which have reported an outbreak of Ebola, were being screened.
“We are now moving away from the policy of self-declaration to a more proactive approach. All international travellers arriving will now be screened. We are only following the guidelines laid out by the Centre,” said Sujata Saunik, principal secretary, public health, Maharashtra.
The decision was taken in light of the cases that were reported outside West African regions, including the two cases from the US over the past two weeks. The state authorities have also asked all airlines to provide them a list of passengers who might be taking a connecting flight from a West African country. “The decision is well meaning. But implementing it on a large scale would require more resources,” said Dr Om Srivastava, infectious disease expert at Jaslok Hospital.
Meanwhile, the city airport officials said Ebola screening would be scaled up following the revised directives. “There will be a meeting of all stakeholders on Saturday to discuss how the screening can be conducted without slowing down the movement at the terminal,” said an airport official, requesting anonymity.
The national guidelines also call for training of health-care workers across the country. The state will identify a number of trainers who will be sent to Delhi. “We will send some of our senior doctors to Delhi. After completing the training, they will conduct sessions across the state. We will also identify and set up certain district hospitals in the state to tackle the disease,” said Saunik.