State and local officials made tentative moves on Thursday to calm a panicky public, two days after swine flu claimed India’s first victim, a school girl from Pune.
In Mumbai and Pune, list of hospitals for screening and treating people was extended, easing the load on three public institutions — Mumbai’s Kasturba Hospital and Pune’s Naidu and Aundh General Hospitals.
By Thursday evening, the country had 615 confirmed cases, of which 130 have originated in Pune, 28 in Mumbai.
A comparison with other pandemics shows that swine flu is the century’s mildest pandemic, with the lowest death rate (see graphic).
In Pune, officials let 15 more state hospitals and dispensaries to screen and treat people. They also made arrangements to transport people from Naidu Hospital to the other centres.
In Mumbai, over the next two days, officials plan to let the government-run J.J. Hospital to screen and treat patients; start isolation wards in three more civic hospitals — one each in the western and eastern suburbs and the island city; and identify private hospitals for the job.
“Mumbai is the largest city, and hence it must have bigger and better facilities to treat swine flu patients in case more people get infected,” Chief Minister Ashok Chavan told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Despite the rhetoric, chaos continued at the screening centres in both cities, but particularly in Mumbai, where citizens remained jumpy and anxious.
“I waited for an hour, and just as it was my turn to be examined, the doctor decided to go for lunch,” said a Taj Hotel employee suffering from fever, who had come to Kasturba Hospital. “He came back after almost two hours.”
A young woman brought to the hospital from Breach Candy Hospital’s intensive care unit lay on a stretcher outside the ward for more than an hour before doctors came to collect her throat swab.
In Pune, whose authorities sprung into action a day before Mumbai, the situation was a bit better.
The crowd had thinned at Naidu Hospital, where screening was continuing in a more orderly fashion than a day earlier, when the police had to break up a scuffle among patients.
Some of the new centres that Hindustan Times visited had begun seeing patients in an orderly fashion.
But others turned away patients, saying they had no doctors or medicines.