A 34-year-old soldier from the Ladakh Scouts regiment has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, making it the first case in the Indian Army. His father, who has also tested positive and is undergoing treatment, had recently returned from a pilgrimage in Iran.

The elderly man’s other son, a daughter-in-law and an infant have also tested positive for COVID-19, Tsering Sampheal, medical superintendent of Sonam Nurboo Memorial Hospital in Leh, told Scroll.in. The infection spread from the elderly man to others even though passengers with history of travel to high-risk countries are reportedly being quarantined and monitored according to the government’s testing protocol.

The soldier, a resident of Chuchot village in Leh, has been admitted to the Sonam Nurboo Memorial Hospital. He was first quarantined at the Ladakh Heart Foundation and then shifted to SNM hospital after his results came positive on March 16.

“Screening of passengers was started at Leh airport on January 30,” the doctor said. “His [the soldier’s] father reached Leh on February 26 but then he was totally asymptomatic. Since he didn’t show any signs of high temperature at the airport screening, he was allowed to go.”

He added that the man tested positive on March 6 and the next day his family was quarantined. “By that time, infection had already spread among the family,” the doctor said. “On March 16, we got reports of the tests conducted on the old man’s family which showed that his two sons, a daughter-in-law and an infant have also been found COVID-19 positive. One of the two sons who tested positive is a soldier and we suspect that he might have got infected at his home. The soldier was on leave at home when his father returned.” While the results of the soldier’s mother are still awaited, his sister has tested negative.

Ladakh has so far reported eight patients of COVID-19. The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday said the total number of novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 151.

According to India’s testing protocol, a person can be tested only if they have travelled to coronavirus affected countries, or if they came in contact with confirmed cases. Those with severe acute respiratory illnesses who require hospitalisation and whose condition cannot be explained by any other cause, even if they do not have travel and contact history, are considered “suspect cases” for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as per government guidelines.

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