Anyone above 60 or having a underlying condition such as diabetes or asthma and arriving at the Calcutta airport from a coronavirus-affected country will be quarantined at a government hospital in Barasat for 14 days, health department officials said on Friday.
The decision to quarantine such passengers at North 24-Parganas District Hospital in Barasat came into effect on Friday afternoon.
China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany are among the countries witnessing an outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Anyone above 60 arriving at the airport from any of the affected countries will be compulsorily quarantined at the Barasat hospital,” a health department official said.
“Anyone with an underlying condition such as asthma or diabetes arriving from an affected country will also be quarantined, irrespective of his or her age.”
The measure has been taken following a directive from the Union health ministry.
Till now, people arriving from affected countries but not suffering from any symptom of coronavirus infection — such as cough and cold or fever — were being asked to be self-quarantined.
Those on self-quarantine were required to stay at home isolated from people, including family members. Their health would be regularly monitored by government doctors, who would mostly gather information over the phone.
Now, only people below 60 arriving from affected countries and not having any underlying health condition or suffering from symptoms of possible coronavirus infection can get themselves quarantined at home, officials said.
“We have set up a quarantine facility at the Barasat hospital with 50 beds. If the number of passengers to be quarantined goes up, we will open more such facilities in the city,” a health department official said.
The Barasat hospital has been chosen for the quarantine facility because of its proximity to the airport.
A similar unit has been set up at the government-run Falakata Superspeciality Hospital in Alipurduar for passengers arriving at the Bagdogra airport from affected countries, the official said.
The government has decided to quarantine people without symptoms at hospitals as a precautionary measure.
“We had thought of other facilities such as hotel but finally chosen hospitals because if any asymptomatic person displays symptoms of coronavirus infection such as cough and cold, fever or respiratory distress, a doctor can attend to him or her immediately,” the official said.
The bureau of immigration, which functions under the ministry of home affairs, has issued a statement saying all visas — except diplomatic, official and work visas — have been suspended from March 13 afternoon till April 15.
“The latest advisory to quarantine asymptomatic persons has been issued in this context,” the official said.
The state government, he said, is keeping a watch on the such passengers arriving at the Calcutta and Bagdogra airports.
The health department has set up isolation units at several government hospitals, including the Infectious Diseases and Beliaghata General Hospital, for treating people with symptoms of possible coronavirus infection.
Private hospitals, too, have been asked to set up isolation wards for the purpose.
The health department was scurrying for a place to set up a quarantine unit for asymptomatic passengers from coronavirus-affected countries over the past couple of days, since the latest central advisory was issued.
There was apparently some confusion over creating the facility.
“The airport health office (which functions under the state government’s health department) had approached the airport authorities for providing such a facility. But there is no such place where several people can be kept for 14 days at a stretch in the terminal,” an airport official said.