Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday told the Lok Sabha that the government was making efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus and there had been no lapse in screening of people entering the country.

The total number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 73 on Thursday after the latest government data included nine new patients from Maharashtra, three from Uttar Pradesh, and one from Ladakh.

Vardhan requested parliamentarians to help in spreading awareness about the virus. He said everyone coming to India was made to fill the forms about their thermal history. “They are then put through thermal screening,” he said. “Not all symptoms are visible right away. However, they can develop in the next 14 days. This is why we share data related to any suspicious patients with authorities across the country. There are over 30,000 people on community screening.”

He elaborated on the laboratories that are conducting tests. “The National Institute of Virology in Pune is our central reference lab,” said Vardhan. “After this we started with 15 labs because this is not a routine test, it can’t be tested in every laboratory. Even now, despite this being such a big task, activities are being coordinated at 51 laboratories across the country and collection centers at 56 locations.” He added that state governments have been asked to send a report on positive cases.

Earlier, Speaker Om Birla said that there was no proposal to adjourn the House over coronavirus.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also addressed the House on the pandemic. He said that the government was making all efforts to ensure that Indians stranded in Iran are doing well. “We are reaching out to our nationals and ensuring that they are in good health,” Jaishankar added. “We are focusing on students there and our endeavour is to facilitate their early return. We are in touch with the governments there to provide treatment facilities to those tested positive for the virus.”

He informed the House that there are about 6,000 Indians in Iran, including 1,100 pilgrims who are mainly from Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra. There are also around 300 Indian students and nearly 1,000 fisherfolk from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat. “Where communities are understandably anxious, we should reassure them and encourage the observance of globally recognised precautions and procedures,” the minister added. “An excessive sense of alarm would only be to the detriment of those who are really in it.” Jaishankar also advised against travelling as it increases the risks.

Earlier in the day, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that universal screening has been put up in place to contain the spread of coronavirus. He then explained that while initially, passengers from the 12 most-affected countries were screened, now, all incoming passengers are subjected to basic thermal screening tests regardless of where they come from. “Every passenger is screened,” he said.

Rajya Sabha to discuss Delhi violence

The Rajya Sabha is likely to witness fiery debates later in the day as it will discuss last month’s violence in Delhi. The Upper House was adjourned on Wednesday amid uproar over Delhi violence and the temporary ban on two Kerala TV channels. The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had banned the two channels – Asianet News and Media One – for a few hours last week for allegedly showing biased content and highlighting the attacks on places of worship during the Delhi violence.

During the discussion in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, the Opposition asked for Home Minister Amit Shah’s resignation. Shah called the Delhi violence a well-planned conspiracy. He lauded the police, though the force has faced severe criticism for alleged dereliction of duty. Shah told the Lok Sabha that 52 people had been killed and 526 injured in the violence. Also, 371 shops and 142 houses had been destroyed, he said. Shah said over 700 cases, including 49 under the Arms Act, had been filed and 2,647 people have been detained or arrested.