India declares coronavirus as a ‘Notified Disaster’

The government has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country a “notified disaster”, in a move it called “a special one-time dispensation”, in order to provide compensation and aid to infected people and the families of those who killed by the virus.

Funds for this and other measures will be drawn from the Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) of each state.

The notification comes a day after central ministry officials briefed the media on steps being taken and cautioned against panicking, saying the outbreak was “not a health emergency”.

As per a letter from the Home Ministry, Rs 4 lakh will be given to the families of those whose deaths have been linked to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. In addition, the cost of hospitalisation for those being treated for the virus has been fixed by state governments.

Among further measures detailed by the government are provisions for temporary accommodation and supply of food, water, clothing and medical care for patients and people in quarantine camps.

SDRF funds will also be used, the government said, to pay for additional testing centres and the cost of protective equipment for police, healthcare and municipal authorities, as well as that of thermal scanners and other necessary equipment for government hospitals.

Such expenditure, the government added, will be drawn only from the state’s funds and not the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).

Total expenditure on equipment cannot exceed 10 per cent of the fund’s annual allocation.

India has reported 86 confirmed cases and two deaths. A 68-year-old woman died in Delhi on Friday night and a 76-year-old man who died in north Karnataka on Thursday both tested positive.

Meanwhile, the government are tracking at least 4,000 people who may have been exposed to the virus. Home Ministry officials also said international traffic would be limited; only 19 of 37 border checkposts are open to them.

Also as part of its response, the government has shut borders to existing visas – except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment and project – till April 15.

The virus that came to light in China’s Wuhan district in December last year and has claimed over 5,000 lives and infected 1.3 lakh people since. The World Health Organisation has declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, meaning it has spread worldwide and affected huge number of people.