Until this week, only a handful of cases of the new coronavirus had been reported in India.
But on Tuesday, the first case was reported in New Delhi, with a man who had recently traveled to Italy testing positive. Six of his family members were also found to have the illness, and all were placed under quarantine, the government said, as officials rushed to trace all those who had come into contact with the group.
On Wednesday, the number of cases jumped to 28, including 16 Italian tourists.
And there were concerns that, in a country where only 22 percent of deaths are medically certified, the true rate of infection might already be higher.
Airports have started screening passengers, and visas issued to nationals of Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea have been canceled. An existing visa ban on Chinese citizens remains in place.
With hundreds of Indian students and workers in Iran, where there has been a major outbreak, the Indian government also announced plans on Wednesday to send several scientists there to set up a laboratory for testing.
Holi, a major religious festival, takes place next week, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged Indians to remain calm but to cancel gatherings.
The festival brings together entire neighborhoods across India, with friends and relatives applying colorful powders to each other’s faces while children stage giant water fights and share food.
Reporting was contributed by Maria Abi-Habib, Alex Marshall, Constant Méheut, Melissa Eddy, Michael Wolgelenter, Emily Cochrane, Elian Peltier, Elisabetta Povoledo, Joanna Berendt, Roni Caryn Rabin, Sarah Mervosh, Michael Gold, Azi Paybarah, Sean Plambeck, Mike Baker, Marc Santora, Iliana Magra, Aurelien Breeden, Amy Qin, Sui-Lee Wee, Choe Sang-Hun, Katie Rogers, Christina Goldbaum, Vindu Goel, Reed Abelson, Sopan Deb, Mike Isaac, Karen Weise, Dave Itzkoff, Paul Mozur, Keith Bradsher, Elaine Yu and Sarah Kliff.
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