Novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes, but the virus that has so far killed 25 people and affected 830 in China is a novel strain and not seen before.
It emerged from a seafood and animal market in China's Wuhan, and is suspected to have spread to as far as the United States.
According to the World Health Organisation, the common symptoms of the novel coronavirus strain include respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria said, "We have an isolation ward and we have beds kept ready for providing care and treatment for suspected coronavirus cases in Delhi or elsewhere in India."
"All precautionary measures -- in terms of personal protection equipment for healthcare workers to prevent the spread of the disease while treating infected patients -- are in place."
Guleria said that hospital preparedness with regard to management and infection prevention control facilities has been also reviewed. "If need be, we have the capacity to increase our isolation ward facilities and provide treatment to such patients."
As a precautionary measure, people should maintain good standards of hand hygiene, avoid travelling in crowded places and use masks. Any person having slight symptoms of cough, fever and weakness should immediately report to the nearest health facility, he said.
According to the AIIMS director, as of now there is no definite treatment, antibiotics or vaccines available for combating the particular virus strain and only supportive treatment for pneumonia is given. One has to follow preventive medication strategies, he said.
Two persons who returned from China have been kept under medical observation in Mumbai for possible exposure to novel coronavirus. As many as 1,789 passengers underwent thermal screening at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport for the coronavirus since January 19 and two of them, who had travelled to China, have been admitted to Kasturba Hospital.
WHO on Thursday said the deadly virus outbreak in China and beyond does not yet constitute a global emergency as it urged Beijing to keep its lockdown of some 20 million people "short".
"I am not declaring a public health emergency of international concern today," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters after a two-day emergency meeting in Geneva on the virus.
The global health body has confirmed that the new virus can be passed between people, at least those in close contact. Chinese health officials warned it could mutate and spread further.
The Union health ministry has said that 12,828 passengers from 60 flights have been screened for novel coronavirus infection till January 22 but no positive case has been detected in the country so far. Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan is reviewing the evolving scenario and the preparedness status.
She has asked states and union territories to review hospital preparedness in terms of isolation and ventilator management of critically ill patients, identify gaps and strengthen core capacities in the area of surveillance and laboratory support, an official statement said.
Thermal screening is being done at the international airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin.
The civil aviation ministry has asked airlines to follow International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on flights originating from China and disembarking in India.
A travel advisory was issued on January 17 and put up on the ministry's website and also on the Twitter handle for wider circulation.