Army reports first coronavirus case, halts hiring
The Indian Army reported its first case of the coronavirus with a 34-year-old soldier from the Ladakh Scouts regiment testing positive for the infection in Leh, army sources said on Wednesday.
The soldier, a resident of Chuchot village in Leh, had come in contact with his father who had returned from a pilgrimage in Iran on an Air India flight on February 20 and tested positive for Covid-19, the sources said.
The first case has prompted the army to announce the suspension of wargames, conferences and training activities as part of precautionary measures. The army said it would check soldiers for flu symptoms on their return from leave. It also stopped recruitment procedures across the country, including the Service Selection Board exams.
In the new Union Territory of Ladakh, where eight persons had tested positive for the coronavirus till Tuesday, the soldier’s father was quarantined at the Ladakh Heart Foundation on February 29. However, he had by then already met his family members.
The soldier had been on leave from February 25 and rejoined duty on March 2, the sources said, adding that he was quarantined on March 7 and he tested positive for the novel coronavirus on March 16.
The soldier’s brother has also tested positive, according to the sources.
Leh commissioner secretary (health) Rigzin Samphel said: “I spoke to the officers of the Ladakh Scouts this morning and the good news is that he (the infected soldier) had been on leave and had no contact with any other person from his unit…. There is no need to worry.”
The soldier has been isolated at the Sonam Nurboo Memorial (SNM) Hospital. His sister, wife and two children are quarantined at SNM Heart Foundation.
The army sources said that although the soldier had rejoined duty, “he had been helping his family during his father’s quarantine period and stayed at Chuchot village for some time.”
According to the sources, all those who have come in contact with the soldier have been quarantined, but did not give the exact numbers.
Samphel told reporters that the Leh district administration was imposing prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144, banning the assembly of five or more persons in the district.
“Prohibitory orders were imposed by the district administration in Kargil yesterday (Tuesday) and the Leh administration is following suit and will be issuing similar orders later in the day. This will help in avoiding large public gatherings,” he said.
In its advisory issued on Wednesday, the army said that at some locations it had placed soldiers under quarantine after their return from leave. Apart from checking soldiers for symptoms of flu, the army has asked its personnel to avoid non-essential travel.
Army officials said they had advised the authorities to grant leave only on essential or compassionate grounds till the situation improves. In order to avoid travel, those who are already on leave have been told to extend their holiday.
The Indian Air Force too has announced the postponement of its exams that were scheduled later this week.