Passengers who shared a Kochi-bound Emirates flight from Dubai with a Kerala family who subsequently tested positive for coronavirus have been placed under strict quarantine.
A three-year-old boy and his parents took a connecting flight from Dubai International Airport to the city on March 7 after travelling from Italy, which is battling Europe's largest Covid-19 outbreak.
All three were found to be infected with the virus on their return to southern India.
A total of 180 people - including those who boarded the same plane - have been told to self-isolate as part of efforts to limit the spread of the virus.
“The condition of the boy and his parents is stable. They are doing well,” said Dr Amar Fettle, a senior Kerala official who oversees coronavirus patients.
“We have tracked 180 people. They are passengers on the flight who live in the same district and people who had primary and secondary contact with the family.
“They are in strict home quarantine with minimum contact with family members and their condition is being continuously monitored.”
The child had high fever and was taken to Ernakulum Medical College hospital in an ambulance from Kochi airport after the family arrived on the flight from Dubai.
His parents were also placed under isolation in the hospital.
Indian authorities have said they were in transit at Dubai Airport for a short while before boarding the plane for Kerala.
People instructed to stay in home quarantine have been asked to remain in a room away from their family.
“We have instructed them to minimise the risk to their family members by staying in a separate room,” Dr Fettle said.
“Food can be kept at the door as there should be minimum contact with the rest of the family.”
Dr Fettle said strong measures were being taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the state that is currently treating more than a dozen patients.
Three patients who contracted the disease in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, have been treated and discharged from Kerala hospitals.
Kerala state is under a partial lockdown following a health emergency declared in four districts on Tuesday.
The state government has closed schools and colleges and cinemas until the end of the month.
“The government has told people to avoid all frivolous travel because it puts themselves and their family at risk,” Dr Fettle said.
“Mass gatherings have been cancelled, schools are shut and there will be no religious festivals permitted for the safety of the public. We are on alert.”
China confirmed a new 'imported' coronavirus case on Wednesday after a traveller reached Zhengzhou, in central China, from Milan via the UAE, Reuters news agency reported.
Emirates and the Dubai Health Authority declined to comment on individual cases.
The DHA on Tuesday said it was important for people to be aware of their responsibility if they had travelled to places with widespread coronavirus transmission.
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has warned citizens and residents against travelling abroad due to the spread of Covid-19.
Dubai airports carry out thermal screening for all passengers who return to the UAE and travellers from countries with a high infection rate are screened twice, the DHA said.
Dr Manal Taryam, chief executive of primary healthcare at DHA said airport screenings aimed to control and slow the spread of the coronavirus disease.
“Depending on the travel history, people may be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days,” explained Dr Taryam.
The health authority has asked passengers who return from 10 countries reporting local transmission of the disease to remain in home quarantine for 14 days.
The 'countries of concern' include China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Germany and France.
“The basic idea is to stay indoors and to keep a distance from other family members (about 3 feet or 1 metre) until the self-isolation period is over,” she said.
“This is a matter of community health and it’s a precaution that should be taken seriously.”
Emirates said in a statement on Tuesday it had a plan of action in place with local authorities and medical teams when a confirmed case of Covid-19 was detected on flights.
If planes transported a suspected or confirmed case, a six to eight hour deep cleaning and disinfection of the aircraft was undertaken.
The airline has implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures for cabins of all aircraft departing from Dubai.
“Our crew members, who operate flights with confirmed cases on-board, undergo health screening,” an Emirates spokeswoman said.
The global death toll has crossed 4,280 from 119,108 reported cases, while 65,765 have recovered.