Till last month, coronavirus was some distant phenomenon for Indians, with US President Donald Trump and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella visiting the country amid roaring applause. After just a week, the threat has hit two prestigious Noida schools and top Delhi hotels.
It is impossible now to find out how many Indians have travelled to Italy, Iran and South Korea -- the new epicentres of COVID-19 as China locked itself down long back -- in the past couple of weeks and how many foreigners arrived in the country from these nations as virus carriers.
Health authorities and concerned officials are now chasing the trail of those infected with COVID-19 but this won't suffice as India has, indeed, entered an "uncharted territory."
The panic began seeping in the moment news broke of an Italy-return man testing positive for novel coronavirus in the national capital. The man had thrown a birthday party for his son on February 28, and several other students of the Shriram Millennium School in Noida, where his child studies, had participated in the celebrations.
And all hell broke loose.
By Tuesday evening, a total of 40 students of the school have been tested for the virus and sent to 28-day isolation, according to Anurag Bhargava, Chief Medical Officer of Gautam Buddh Nagar.
A scared parent whose son studies in the Shriram Millennium School told IANS on condition of anonymity: "We came to know about this on the parents' WhatsApp group early in the morning. There was complete panic in the group.
"Today's exam has been cancelled and the school is now shut for sanitisation. We pray for those who were there at the birthday party where the infected person was present."
On Monday, two fresh cases were reported, one from Delhi (the one which has created panic in the capital) and another from Telangana. A case of coronavirus has also been reported from Rajasthan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged India not to panic.
"Different ministries and states are working together, from screening people arriving in India to providing prompt medical attention," tweeted Modi.
The threat, however, is only growing and the next 7-10 days will clear the picture whether there is an outbreak of virus in India too.
The World Health Organization's (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has already warned that it would be a fatal mistake for any country -- especially densely-populated ones like India -- to assume that it will not get hit by novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Given the rapid spread of coronavirus to newer territories, India cannot let its guard down and panic management is the key here.
Remember: This disease is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been seen or tackled before, which has spread to more than 70 countries.
According to health experts, curb travel, avoid large gatherings, wash hands at regular intervals and visit a physician the moment early symptoms show up.
"Right this very moment, you can practice not touching your face while in public. Keep your hands in your pockets, on your hips, or elsewhere. Avoid the temptation to scratch your eyelid, bite your nails, or use your hand to wipe your nose," says the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US.
Wash your hands for full 20 seconds with hot water, especially when you return home from being in public.
If you feel sick, stay home. About 80 per cent of people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, which is why it continues to spread so easily.
It is critical for people with fever, coughing or shortness of breath to quarantine themselves and prevent further spread of the virus. Remain quarantined until you have been feverless for at least 24 hours without medications.
Offer "elbow bumps" instead of handshakes, or do 'Namaste.' (IANS)