Battling COVID-19.

Battling COVID-19.

Maharashtra readies to battle Covid-19 after 42 cases, 1 death; worst-hit

State in partial shutdown; schools, colleges, malls, theatres, gyms, pools closed

Agency Report | Mumbai/New Delhi/Srinagar | 18 March, 2020 | 11:00 PM

The Health Ministry says that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India rose to 151, including 25 foreign nationals. The government informs the Lok Sabha that 276 Indians have been infected with coronavirus abroad, including 255 in Iran, 12 in UAE and five in Italy. India's total number of cases stand at 151. Globally, the number of cases has reached over 200,000, and there have been over 8,010 reported deaths across 157 countries. Maharashtra is the worst hit state with 42 cases and one death. Over 5,700 people, who have come in contact with these positive cases, are under rigorous surveillance. Delhi has so far reported ten positive cases which include one foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 16 cases, including one foreigner. Maharashtra has 42 cases, including three foreigners, while Kerala has recorded 27 cases which include two foreign nationals.

With the number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases touching 43 in the state, Maharashtra’s anti-coronavirus battle became even fiercer on Wednesday with more testing and quarantine facilities coming up, besides the all-out efforts implemented to avoid the challenge of keeping the crowd at bay in public areas and at workplaces.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray reviewed the situation on Wednesday with all the concerned departments and said that a limit of 50 per cent staff will be implemented in all government departments.

He said the number of suburban trains and buses will be reduced, standees won’t be permitted and those seating would be kept at a safe distance as precautionary measures.

Thackeray urged the restive people of Mumbai, with 17 million people and the state with a population of nearly 12 crores, not to panic or stock up essentials as there is sufficient availability of everything, including medical items.

However, Thackeray said the government plans to implement shift hours for retail shops/markets in different urban localities.

After making repeated appeals for ‘work from home’, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has now warned of punitive action against those private companies which fail to implement 50 per cent staff norms or disallow work from home.

State Health Minister Rajesh Tope announced that from Thursday, additional coronavirus testing labs will start operating at KEM Hospital and Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai and BJ Medical College in Pune. In the next few days, a total of eight more laboratories shall be opened, including at Haffkine Institute in Mumbai. They will test around 250 samples daily.

“We may even permit private labs to take up testing, but only after taking all the necessary permissions,” Tope said after visiting the National Institute of Virology in Pune on Wednesday.

He said that there are over 800 beds for quarantine in Pune and permission will be given to open quarantine facilities in private hospitals too.

In Mumbai, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has permitted several private hospitals to start isolation wards with 88 beds. They include Hinduja Hospital (20), Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital (17 beds), Lilavati (15), Raheja (12), Jagjivan Ram WR (10), Jaslok (5), Bombay Hospital (4), H.N. Reliance (2), Gurunanak (2) and St. Elizabeth (2).

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, the Minister for Food & Civil Supplies, Rajendra Shingane, swooped on some pharmacies following complaints of black marketeering of masks, sanitisers and other stuff. He has issued instructions to deal with such wilful offenders in the sternest manner.

The MCGM has started imposing a hefty fine of Rs 1,000 for people found spitting in public, while the Bhiwandi Police in Thane slapped a case against Arihant Mattresses for making false claims of ‘anti-coronavirus’ beddings. Actions are also being initiated at various levels against those spreading fake messages on social media.

Local organisations, like the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi legislators — the father-son duo of Hitendra Thakur and Kshitij Thakur –, are distributing masks among bus passengers in Palghar and disinfecting all public buses for public safety.

Meanwhile, Mumbai and Pune — the two worst-hit cities with maximum coronavirus cases — appeared to be pausing in their steps with visibly reduced commuters in trains and buses, though the number of private vehicles on roads and highways hasn’t shown a noticeable decline so far.

All beaches in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg are near-deserted, as also the prominent hill stations in the Western Ghats, resorts, wildlife sanctuaries, tourist destinations etc.

All major places of worship like temples, churches, mosques-mausoleums and gurdwaras have shut their doors for devotees while some religious organisations and sects are now offering online prayers, namaz etc. to keep the crowd and the virus away.

The state has already elapsed into the partial shutdown with all schools, colleges, malls, theatres, cinemas, gyms, swimming pools closed till March 31.

Now the locks are down on recreational activities like clubs, pubs, discos, bars, paan-cigarette vendors and some restaurants in Mumbai, Pune and Thane for varying periods as the ‘state versus virus’ battle intensify.

Scenes of protest from international passengers against being placed under quarantine to curb the spread of Covid-19 virus were witnessed at the Delhi Airport recently. However, sources claim that the situation was later resolved.

In a social media video post that went viral, a group of passengers were seen shouting slogans and arguing with officials at the IGI Airport, as their passports were withheld.

The incident took place on Monday when these passengers were being taken to the quarantine facility.

According to highly placed sources, these passengers arrived on two flights that had landed from Europe on Monday morning. Around 300 passengers arrived on the flights from Paris and Frankfurt.

“On Monday, there was some congestion in and around the area, where these passengers were kept. Some passengers were resisting against being quarantined. However, current procedures clearly mandate quarantine of 14 days,” a highly placed source told IANS.

“However, their concerns were resolved later and they were shifted to the quarantine facility.”

Nevertheless, in the video, few passengers were seen asking their passports back from the officials.

“Upon their arrival and medical screening, their passports were taken to ascertain details of the addresses that they had furnished at the screening stations,” the sources said.

Later, when they were being taken to the quarantine facility, there was rush and chaos, and in the ensuing situation, a number of passengers protested.

“Currently, every country have similar measures in place and any and everyone has to be quarantined for the greater good,” the source said.

“These passengers were taken in batches to buses which were waiting outside to take them to the quarantine centres.”

Later in the day, referring to the video, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told reporters in the Parliament: “Several people, who have been taken for quarantine, are saying ‘we don’t want to be here, we want to stay in a hotel.’ The arrangements for quarantine was done by Delhi government….”

“Some delay happened on the first day… There was some congestion… The video which you are seeing in social media is three days old… Everything was sorted out.”

At present, entry of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia to India has also been prohibited.

Similarly, passengers coming from the EU, European Free Trade Association countries as well as Turkey and the UK can not enter India from Wednesday.

Furthermore, all passengers coming from or transiting through UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait in addition to China, Iran and South Korea will be placed under compulsory quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days.

District Magistrate Srinagar Shahid Iqbal Choudhary has ordered restricted entry of travellers from Leh and Kargil areas to Srinagar.

The order states that only those travellers can enter Srinagar who has undergone quarantine for the specified two-week period immediately before the intending date of travel and certified and cleared by the competent medical authority in Ladakh.

Travellers from the region who have undergone quarantine in their region will have to undergo quarantine in Srinagar before being allowed to proceed to their desired destinations.

The order also applies to road travellers from the region. The ferrying of passengers in Indian Airforce aircraft has been suspended altogether till further notice.

Concerned authorities have been asked to ensure strict implementation of the order and all instructions therein and ensure that no exemptions are allowed.

The order has been issued under section 34 of the National Disaster Management Act, 2005, and is aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus infection in Srinagar.

These restrictions have been ordered after several confirmed cases of coronavirus surfaced in the Ladakh region and are aimed at preventing the spread of the infection in Srinagar.

Passengers of an Air India flight from Leh to Srinagar, the passengers of which refused to undergo the mandatory 14-day long quarantine period, was diverted overhead to Leh airport on Wednesday.

Sources said the Air India flight carrying 106 passengers from Leh to Srinagar International Airport was diverted back to Leh after some of its passengers refused to undergo the mandatory quarantine period.

“The flight was diverted overhead without landing at Srinagar airport after many passengers among the 106 onboard refused to be quarantined.

“The flight landed at Leh from where it carried back only 77 such passengers who agreed to be quarantined in Srinagar.

“The remaining 29 disembarked at Leh airport,” sources said.

With Wednesday’s decision to impose mandatory quarantine on all people entering the Valley from the Ladakh region, it is now clear that even those who come here from Ladakh UT through the Leh-Srinagar National highway, which is likely to be thrown open for traffic by the end of this month, will have to be quarantined.

It must be mentioned that eight people have so far tested positive in the Ladakh UT for coronavirus.

This is an alarming number given the fact that the population of Ladakh region that includes Leh and Kargil districts is only 2.74 lakhs. (IANS)