For smooth functioning of healthcare infrastructure and seamless research work during covid-19 pandemic, government on Wednesday relaxed the visa and travel restrictions for foreign healthcare professionals, health researchers, engineers and technicians for technical work at Indian health sector facilities, including laboratories and factories.

Ministry of Home Affairs in an official statement on Wednesday said that this will however be subject to a letter of invitation from a recognized and registered healthcare facility, registered pharmaceutical company or accredited University in India. The union home ministry while relaxing visa restrictions also included some more categories of foreign nationals.

The categories include foreign businessmen coming to India on a Business visa (other than on B-3 visa for sports) in non-scheduled commercial/ chartered flights, foreign engineering, managerial, design or other specialists travelling to India on behalf of foreign business entities located in India. This includes all manufacturing units, design units, software and IT units as well as financial sector companies (banking and non-banking financial sector firms), the home ministry said.

The ministry also relaxed norms for foreign technical specialists and engineers travelling for installation, repair and maintenance of foreign-origin machinery and equipment facilities in India, on the invitation of a registered Indian business entity. These could be for equipment installation, or is under warranty, or for after sales servicing or repair on commercial terms.

The government said that these categories of foreign nationals would have to obtain a fresh Business visa or Employment visa, as applicable, from the Indian Missions/ Posts abroad. “Foreign nationals holding a valid long-term multiple entry Business visa (other than B-3 visa for sports) issued by the Indian Missions/ Posts abroad would have to get the Business visa re-validated from the Indian Mission/ Post concerned. Such foreign nationals would not be permitted to travel to India on the strength of any electronic visa obtained earlier,” Union Home Ministry said in a statement.

After the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 31st declared the outbreak of novel coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), as the outbreak started spreading outside Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus, the international movement thereafter remained severely affected. Currently, the covid-19 has impacted over 188 countries in the world including India. India remains positioned at the seventh spot among the worst virus hit countries in the world with having more than 2 lakh cases and nearly 6000 deaths with a fatality rate of 2.80%.

Union health ministry on Wednesday said that during the last 24 hours, a total of 4,776 covid-19 patients have been cured. So far, a total of 1,00,303 patients have been cured of the disease with recovery rate of 48.31%. Presently, there are 1,01,497 active cases and all are under active medical supervision.

The testing capacity has increased in the country through 480 Government and 208 private laboratories (total 688 laboratories). Cumulatively, 41,03,233 samples have been tested so far for covid-19, whereas, 1,37,158 samples were tested on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Union Health Ministry on Wednesday issued guidelines for safe Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) practice in covid-19 pandemic in the country as it is a high-risk speciality. The guidelines are aimed to minimise the spread of COVID-19 infection among ENT doctors, nursing staff, support staff, patients and their attendants.

The guidelines state that patients entering ENT OPD should be screened. The objective of screening is to minimize exposure to staff and to patients. According to the guidelines, patients having symptoms suggestive of covid 19 -whether ENT symptoms or respiratory symptoms should be seen in a separate “covid-19 screening Clinic” and not in the ENT OPD.

The guidelines have said that no covid-19 positive patient to have surgeries in operation theatres designated for non-covid cases adding that covid-19 positive patients to be operated only for emergency indications in designated OT for COVID patients.

While the numbers patients are continuously increasing, the government said that as far as the health infrastructure in the country for management of covid-19 is concerned, as of now, 952 dedicated covid hospitals with 1,66,332 Isolation beds, 21,393 ICU beds and 72,762 Oxygen supported beds are available. 2,391 dedicated covid Health Centres with 1,34,945 Isolation beds; 11,027 ICU beds and 46,875 Oxygen supported beds have been operationalised. The Centre has also provided 125.28 lakh N95 masks and 101.54 lakh Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to the States/ UTs / Central Institutions.

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