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Coronavirus: Govt prevents disembarking of over 38,000 crew, passengers on Indian ports so far

New Delhi, Mar 25 (PTI) In order to contain the spread of coronavirus, the government has so far prevented over 38,000 crew and passengers on board over 1,000 ships from disembarking on Indian shores and arranged safe transport of EXIM cargo, a shipping ministry official said on Wednesday.

Apart from restricting cargo handling and scanning passengers and crew, the government has prohibited entry of any international cruise ship, crew or passengers with a travel history to coronavirus-hit countries post February 1 to its major ports.

Besides, it has also asked port chiefs to make timely payments to casual workers.

Till Wednesday, over 38,000 crew and passengers on board over 1,000 vessels arriving on Indian shores from China or travel history to the impacted countries were not allowed to disembark here, the official said.

They have not been allowed to disembark as a precautionary measure to contain any possible spread of the virus, the official said adding that they were allowed to anchor at designated places, but no shore passes were issued to such crew and passengers after January 26.

Of over 1,000 ships, 719 had arrived at India's 12 major ports while the remaining arrived at minor ports under the control of the state governments.

According to the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), all passengers and crew aboard the vessels are being scanned, and all necessary facilities are being extended to them, the official said.

All required protocols are being followed and help is being provided in the case of fever or sickness, the official added.

India has 12 major ports -- Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) -- that handled 699.04 MT of cargo during 2018-19.

There are about 200 non-major ports under the control of states.

Last month, the government directed all 12 major ports to immediately put in place screening, detection and quarantine system for disembarking seafarers and cruise passengers as a preventive measure against the coronavirus outbreak.

Directions had also been issued to ports to procure N-95 masks as well as thermal scanners to screen passengers, besides obtaining self-declaration from arriving crew and passengers.

To prevent the spread of the deadly virus, the Ministry of Shipping had said it will allow only such international cruise ships that had intimated their call to ports by January 1, 2020.

'Only those international cruise ships that had planned and intimated their call to an Indian port not later than January 1, 2020, will be allowed to call on such port,' it said. PTI NAM HRS