12 new cases take count in Maharashtra to 64Updated: Mar 22, 2020, 00:24 IST
With 12 new cases testing positive for Sars-Cov-2 in Maharashtra, the state machinery has geared up to restrict the spread of the virus, which causes Covid-19. Maharashtra has the highest number of cases in India. State health minister Rajesh Tope said there was no evidence of community transmission, but the state is preparing for an increase in the number of reported cases. Out-patient departments (OPDs)at eight private hospitals have been added to the list of hospitals that may be approached by those exhibiting symptoms of the disease.
A 41-year-old woman in Pune was among the 12 in the state who tested positive for Sars-Cov-2 on Saturday. She has no travel history to a Covid-positive country. However Tope said, “There is no case of community transmission in Maharashtra, be it Nagpur or Pune and I’m saying this after talking to all the higher authorities. We are trying to ascertain the reason of the Pune case where the 41-year old woman, without having any travel history, got infected.” Speaking about the other 11 patients, Tope said, “Of the eight in Mumbai, six have international travel history while one had visited Gujarat and one is employed at airport. The one from Yavatmal visited Congo and is admitted in Mumbai, while the cases in Kalyan and Ulhasnagar had travelled to Dubai. In Pune, the 25-year old youth who tested positive had visited England and Ireland.”
Around 80% of the positive cases in Maharashtra are from Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nagpur, which have been placed under partial shutdown since Saturday. School education minister Varsha Gaikwad on Saturday announced the indefinite postponement of Class 10 exams, which were scheduled to take place on Monday.
Tope said the state would decide on Monday if public transport in these cities needs to be shut down.
On Saturday, 811 persons with suspected symptoms of Covid-19 were tested in Mumbai and 138 suspected patients were admitted to isolation wards across the city. At present, the virus is spreading by local transmission (stage 2), which means the source of the virus can be identified (in case of Sars-Cov-2, this means people with history of travel to Covid-positive countries). The state administration hopes the partial shutdown of the major cities will prevent the outbreak from advancing to community transmission (stage 3), when the source of the infection can no longer be pinpointed. “We are working hard to ensure to contain the virus at stage 2,” said Tope.
During a meeting with divisional commissioners and district collectors late on Friday evening, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said “Our resolve is to contain the spread at stage 2 and not allow it to advance further. We have taken some strict steps like shutting down major cities. The next 15 days are crucial for the state and the state machinery needs to pull up its socks during this golden hour. While ensuring people stay home, the district administrations should also see to it that essential services are operational.” The term “golden hour” refers to the period immediately after an incident during which it is critical that the patient get proper medical care in order to survive.
Chief secretary Ajoy Mehta also held meetings to review the situation in the state. The state government has appointed a special task force of four senior officers to handle non-medical aspects of the outbreak. “Additional chief secretary Rajiv Jalota has been entrusted with the responsibility of inter-departmental coordination while principal secretary Bhushan Gagrani will look into the industrial and business-related aspects on the sidelines of the outbreak. Secretary Prajakta Lawangare has been asked to handle the help pouring in from various corporate houses and philanthropic institutions. IPS officer Manoj Patil will coordinate law and order issues across the state,” said a senior Mantralaya officer.
The state government demanded more assistance from the Centre to combat the outbreak during a video conference between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Thackeray, on Friday, Thackeray asked for financial help for the industrial sector which is likely to feel the impact of the shutdown and said Maharashtra may need medical help in terms of masks, ventilators and testing kits. The Centre recently granted permission to open more Sars-Cov-2 testing centres and laboratories in the state.
On Saturday, the state also directed all public hospitals to postpone scheduled surgeries so that available resources, including machinery, are focused on treating Covid-19 patients. “We are preparing for any kind of emergency situation and hence have decided to postpone surgeries in government hospitals that can be rescheduled. We have also set up 250 isolation wards and has kept over 7000 beds reserved for quarantine facility as part of the preparedness plan. We are also decided to rope in private hospitals for the tests, besides the ones at Kasturba and KEM Hospitals,” said Tope. The state public health department also issued an order directing all government hospitals, including medical colleges and municipal corporation hospitals, to conduct a mock drill for emergency response and handling of Covid-19 cases today.
At present, Mumbai is the worst-hit city in Maharashtra with 19 cases. “After Sunday’s Janta Curfew, a fresh review of the situation will be taken on Monday to decide if public transport in these cities [Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad] needs to be completely shut down. We are also thinking of restricting public transport to the employees associated with essential services,” said a government official privy to developments.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) commissioner Praveen Pardeshi issued a circular on Friday night in which he said, “It is essential to take measures to decongest major hospitals in view of coronavirus.” Pardeshi has chalked out several measures to shift patients to peripheral civic hospitals from major civic hospitals in order to create more space for Covid-19 cases. The BMC is also looking to arrange space in government-run college hostels.
The civic body has also intensified its search-and-track operations. As of now, 1,20,000 people have been tracked in 1,600 housing societies. According to a senior health official, the BMC will devote more manpower to track people at ward levels. Special teams will be created to check on people exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 like cough, cold and fever. Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said, “If needed, I have given instructions to quarantine forcefully.” Those who can home quarantine have been instructed to do so for 14 days instead of staying at civic hospitals. A large number of tuberculosis patients have also been identified as a result of the tracking operations and they were advised to get admitted to Kasturba Hospital.
Moreover, the BMC has also roped in the out-patient departments (OPDs) of eight private hospitals: Lilavati Hospital, HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Hinduja Hospital, Fortis Hospital, BPT Hospital, Jaslok Hospital, Nanavati Hospital, and SL Raheja Hospital. One extra OPD has been added to existing OPD facilities at KEM Hospital, Sion Hospital, Nair Hospital, and Cooper Hospital. Daksha Shah, civic body deputy executive health officer, said, “Any persons showing flu like symptoms can approach any of the above hospitals. Doctors here will check them, and further guide them.” Isolation beds are also available at Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, Jaslok Hospital and HN Reliance Hospital.
On Friday, the BMC announced buses and taxis for passengers from Maharashtra who have travel history to Covid-positive countries but are not from Mumbai. They will be ferried to their hometowns by these special buses and taxis so that they do not use public transport.