A nurse from Kerala working in Saudi Arabia is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus that has killed 17 people in China, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan confirmed on Thursday. She was working at the Jazeera Abha Al Hayath Hospital in the city of Khamis Mushait in Southwest Saudi Arabia.
“About 100 Indian nurses, mostly from Kerala, working at Al-Hayat hospital have been tested and none except one nurse was found infected by coronavirus,” Muraleedharan tweeted. “Affected nurse is being treated at Aseer National Hospital and is recovering well.”
Earlier in the day, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, asking him to ensure that authorities in Saudi Arabia take all steps to help the nurses, who have been reportedly quarantined, IANS reported.
The nurse who tested positive is believed to have been infected while tending to a Filipino nurse. Meanwhile, the other nurses who have been quarantined alleged that they were not tested, Hindustan Times reported. “We have been herded in two rooms of the hospital for more than a day,” one of them said over the phone. “No proper tests were done and we are not treated properly. We have also complained to Indian embassy officials.”
The coronavirus first emerged in the city of Wuhan in China and has spread to several countries. The number of confirmed infections rose to 571 on Thursday. The coronavirus is part of the same family as the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and the Middle East respiratory syndrome, and has spread to Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the United States.
Earlier on Thursday, China suspended all transport – road, rail and air – to and from Wuhan. Authorities in Wuhan said all local tourism agencies would suspend business and would not organise tours till February 8. All tours scheduled to start after January 30 were cancelled.
Several countries have stepped up medical screening of travellers from China, particularly those from Wuhan. Passengers from China are facing screening measures at five US airports and a host of transport hubs across Asia, including seven airports in India.
European airports from London to Moscow have also stepped up checks and Nigeria, which has many citizens working in China, said it would start checks at entry points.