Mumbai civic body to depute 300 marshals at railway stations for mask check
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will depute 300 marshals at railway stations across the city by the end of the week to enforce the rule of wearing face masks in public places. Since local train services have resumed for the general public, Mumbai has seen a spike in the number of reported cases of Covid-19. Wearing the face mask is mandatory for all those travelling by local train.
Health officials believe the violation of Covid-safety norms while travelling in trains is a contributing factor to the uptick in the number of cases. To ensure Covid-19 appropriate behaviour among commuters, BMC will station 100 marshals on Western (WR), 100 marshals on Central (CR) Railway and 100 marshals on Harbour line.
“Since we are still fighting the pandemic, people cannot be careless and need to follow all precautionary measures to stop further spread of the infection. So we have decided to keep marshals at railway stations to implement safety rules by issuing fines,” said additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani.
In April 2020, BMC had issued a directive that set a fine of ₹1,000 for being outdoors without wearing a mask and/ or spitting in public places. The penalty was reduced to ₹200 in September after citizens complained that the amount was too high. Since February 1, when local trains opened up to the general public after almost a year, on an average of 2 million people are using local trains daily. Although social distancing is among the prescribed Covid-safety norms, commuters have reported overcrowding and maintaining a one-metre distance from the next person to be a significant challenge.
“Buses and trains are as crowded as they used to be earlier [before the lockdown] due to reduced frequency and high demand for public transport. It is all the more essential, therefore, that masks be used by everyone,” said Dr Vispi Jokhi, chief executive officer, Masina Hospital.
Commuters have also complained that few are taking Covid guidelines seriously, particularly in matters like wearing face masks. “People keep their masks below the mouth, and don’t use a handkerchief when sneezing or coughing. Then they hold the side handle bars without sanitising their hands. We never know who is infected, which makes me anxious,” said Shreyas Salvi, who runs a construction firm and has been travelling daily from Vasai from Borivli for work.
Dr Jokhi said wearing face masks properly offered almost as much protection as the vaccine. “The [face] mask protocol is almost 80% as effective as the vaccine in terms of the control of the pandemic as it reduces the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. Although the vaccination drive in India is at a nascent stage, if coupled with the precautions of maintaining [face] mask protocol, then we have a better chance to control the pandemic and ensure the second wave doesn’t come in the country,” said Dr Jokhi.