In another major milestone for the global coronavirus outbreak, India, the world’s second-most-populous country with a population of roughly 1.3 million people, has confirmed its first death from Covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
The BBC reports, the 76-year-old man, from the southern state of Karnataka, returned from Saudi Arabia on Feb. 29 after a month-long visit. People who have had contact with the man, who died on Tuesday, are being traced and quarantined, according to the state’s health minister.
So far, India has 73 confirmed cases of the virus, the ministry said. Though the man died on Tuesday evening, the results of his diagnosis were only made public on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia has embraced a more heavy handed approach to suppressing the outbreak in the country by banning visiting (suspending Muslim pilgrimmages) and quarantining neighborhoods. The man, who recently returned to India after spending 1 month in KSA, was screened at the airport when he returned on Feb. 29, but he had no symptoms.
He was eventually taken to the hospital after having “difficulties” last week.
The southern state of Karnataka, where the man lived and died, has banned all gatherings including weddings, sports events and conferences for a week as Indian authorities attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa declared that all malls, movie theaters, pubs and night clubs have also been shut.
“The government will decide on further action after a week following a review,” Yediyurappa announced on Friday.
According to the Economic Times, 46 people who had been in direct contact with the 76-year-old man have been placed under quarantine.
Earlier in India, seven people in Agra, two in Ghaziabad and one each in Noida and Lucknow have now tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the country’s case total to 75.
Under PM Narendra Modi, the Indian government has taken a number of steps to halt the spread of Covid-19:
- All visas, barring a select few categories, have been suspended for a month
- Visa-free travel afforded to overseas citizens of the country has been suspended until 15 April and even those allowed in could be subject to 14 days of quarantine.
- Schools, colleges and movie theatres in the capital, Delhi, have been shut until 31 March
- The Indian Premier League (IPL), featuring nearly 60 foreign players and scheduled to begin on 29 March, has been postponed to 15 April
- Two one-day cricket matches between India and South Africa will be played behind closed doors.
India’s health ministry says it was among the first countries in the world to prepare for an outbreak of the respiratory illness, and denied allegations that it was slow in testing suspected cases.
However, many public health experts worry that India won’t be able to contain an uncontrolled community outbreak since it lacks the ability to impose mass quarantines like they did in China.