NEW DELHI/BENGALURU - An Italian national tested positive for coronavirus in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, a major tourist destination, a hospital official said on Monday, taking the number of people who have tested positive in the country to six.
The patient had initially tested negative for the virus but a second test came out positive, a hospital official in Rajasthan's capital city of Jaipur told Reuters, declining to be named since he is not authorized to speak to the media.
"The patient has been moved to an isolation ward," the official said, adding that a third test would be conducted. Separately on Monday, the Indian government said two other people had tested positive for the coronavirus. The news hammered already rocky stock markets.
One of the new cases was detected in the capital, New Delhi, while the other was in the southern state of Telangana, the government said in a statement.
The New Delhi patient had been in Italy and the one in Telangana had been Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the government said; both were stable and being closely monitored. "The government is monitoring the situation at the highest-level," Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told a briefing in New Delhi.
Authorities were screening travelers arriving from 12 countries, Vardhan said, adding that more than 1 million people had been screened on the border with Nepal.
In Jaipur, the hospital official said that at least 15 doctors, staff and patients who may have come into contact with the Italian patient would be tested.
Indian shares sank sharply on the news, ending lower for the seventh straight session.
The NSE Nifty 50 index erased gains of up to 2% to close 0.62% lower. The rupee was 0.07% weaker at 72.4300 against the dollar.
The coronavirus, which was identified in China late last year, has quickly spread to dozens of countries, killing nearly 3,000 people and disrupting global business supply chains. India is the world's second most heavily populated country after China. The government has advised Indians to refrain from non-essential travel to the worst affected countries, including China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.
Meanwhile, the three other patients who had tested positive for coronavirus in India have all been discharged from hospital, and were in quarantine in their homes, the government in Kerala state said last week.
All three had returned from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the outbreak.
U.S. intelligence agencies are monitoring the global spread of coronavirus and the ability of governments to respond, sources told Reuters last week, warning that there were concerns about how India would cope with a widespread outbreak.