With the addition of six new cases on Friday, the total number of coronavirus cases rose to 81 in India

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday stressed that bringing back Indian nationals from Italy, the epicentre of Novel Coronavirus in Europe, is government's top priority amid the virus outbreak which has infected 81 people and taken a life so far in the country. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said the epidemic is "not a health emergency" and the government is taking all the steps to manage the situation.

While addressing media, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry, confirmed that there are 81 confirmed cases of coronavirus in India till now and out of the 81 patients, 64 are Indians, 16 are Italians and one is Canadian national.

He went on to add that contact tracing of the confirmed cases is being actively pursued. So far, the tracing has led to the identification of more than 4,000 contacts who have been put under surveillance, said Agarwal.

The government has brought 42,296 passengers under community surveillance, out of which 2,559 were symptomatic and 522 hospitalised including 17 foreign nationals, confirmed the Joint Secretary, Health Ministry.

Reacting to the invocation of Epidemic Act by the Centre, Lav Agarwal said, "It is important to understand that it is not a health emergency. We are trying to support the initiative taken by the state in terms of managing the situation."

When asked about some businesses selling masks at steep prices amid increasing demand, he said, "If masks are sold at exorbitant prices then states can take action as per law. If need be we will take drastic action on the abnormal increase in the price of masks."