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153 cases in Maharashtra; state reaches out to Army for help

By Faisal Malik, Swapnil Rawal, Surendra Gangan & Rupsa Chakraborty, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 28, 2020 12:50 AM IST

The number of coronavirus cases in Maharashtra touched 153 on Friday, up by 23, even as the state government reached out to the Indian Army, seeking its assistance, if required, to set up hospitals.

With the number of cases increasing every day, the government is preparing for any kind of emergency. The Army’s assistance has been sought to construct makeshift hospitals, streamline supply lines and other related aspects in case of a big spike in numbers.

Deputy CM Ajit Pawar confirmed that the state has written to the Army. Pawar also clarified that help was only sought for medical support. Senior IAS officer Bhushan Gagrani, who is part of a control room dedicated to deal with the outbreak, said the chief secretary [Ajoy Mehta] had spoken to the western command chief of the Army.

“The Army can help us control the situation by making makeshift hospitals, streamline supply lines etc. As far as our back-up plan is concerned, we have identified hospitals where isolation wards can be set up. Our supply lines are also being almost streamlined at present. We may not require their help, but have to be ready for any situation,” said Gagrani.

On Friday, 23 more people tested positive — 12 in Sangli, four in Nagpur, two each in Mumbai and Thane, one case each in Palghar, Gondia and one person from Gujarat, who was diagnosed in Mumbai. The 23 included the city’s youngest patient, a one-and-a-half-year-old boy who was admitted to Kasturba Hospital. According to officials, his 57-year-old father tested positive for the virus two days ago. The mother of the child has tested negative for the virus, while the child’s grandfather has tested positive. Although the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said there were nine new cases in the city, the state government has only accounted for six new cases on Friday.

To arrest the spread of the coronavirus, the state government is also focusing on tracing close contacts of the patients infected by the coronavirus. Public health minister Rajesh Tope, through his Facebook Live address, said the government is now working on the principle of three Ts — Tracing, Testing, and Treatment — to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“With all modes of transport into Maharashtra shut, we are tracking close contacts of the infected. The government is now focused on three Ts — tracing, testing and treatment,” Tope said in his daily update via Facebook Live.

Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray in his address to the people of Maharashtra, via live stream, said that the state is at a very crucial turn, where the virus can go on multiplying, resulting in the rise of patients multifold.

“There is no need to panic as many patients have gotten cured after timely and right treatment. I appeal to people with international travel history to come forward if they have missed the coronavirus test after coming back. There is possibility of new cases coming to light after having gotten into contact with people with the international travel history. The cases may rise, but there is no need be scared,” he said.

Thackeray yet again appealed to people to stay at home.

The state government has also allowed home delivery services from restaurants and hotels as another move to reduce crowd on roads and consequently, minimise the risk of community transmission, but put the onus on staff hygiene for app-based services and restaurants.

Thackeray also assured that the government is committed to taking care of citizens of other states in Maharashtra as the state borders are sealed. The chief minister said he was getting calls from chief ministers of other states like Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh expressing concerns over their people stranded in the state. “I have assured them the safety and arrangements of the workers stranded here. I once again appeal to the people to stay back wherever they are. We are appealing to NGOs to come forward and take care of facilities like food and shelter for these stranded people,” he said.

Meanwhile, both chief minister and public health minister urged private doctors to keep their clinics open, so that people don’t have to face inconvenience. Tope said medicine being a “noble” profession, doctors should continue to practice without fear.

“OPD, emergency medical services have been stopped... This is not right. There are other illnesses apart from Covid-19. Where will people go for deliveries or if some one suffers a heart attack?… Don’t show insensitivity in times of crisis,” Tope told private medical practitioners. He cited an example of a couple in Ahmednagar who were looking for a paediatrician to treat their son, but no clinics were open. Tope also said that the state is trying procure N95 masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits from manufacturers for all its health-care workers and doctors. He added that blood donation camps should be carried out, while keeping social distancing measures in place.

State health officials said of the 3,493 suspected people with symptoms of cough and flu, samples of 3,059 have tested negative so far. The state government has also released 22 patients, who completely recovered after testing positive. At present, nearly 250 suspected patients are admitted in different hospitals, 1,045 are quarantined at government facilities set up at various places and 16,513 are home quarantined across Maharashtra.

Thackeray also directed 190 Shiv Bhojan centres to remain open during the state-wide lockdown to serve meals to the ‘poor and needy’. Thackeray has also directed to keep the centres open for an additional hour than the two-hour, during which thalis are served at 10. A senior official of food, civil supplies and consumer protection department said that the state will serve 1 lakh lunch meals daily. “As apart from the social distancing measure, we are allowing them to pack meals and sell it. The state had planned to increase the number of thalis from 36,000 to 1 lakh from April 1. Now, in a day or two, centres will be operational and poor and needy, daily-wage labours will get a one-time meal, “ the official said.

The state BJP unit, which held a meeting on Friday to brainstorm over various ways to assist people during the outbreak of coronavirus, has decided to feed at least 20 lakh people in Maharashtra. The meeting of all party MLAs, MPs as well as Union ministers like Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal, Prakash Jawadekar was held via audio bridge.

The party has decided to mobilise support systems to feed 20 lakh people. The party unit has also decided to ensure sufficient supply of sanitisers, stop its black marketing, take measures to make social distancing successful.

Meanwhile, one of the two Thane patients who tested positive is a 38-year-old with a travel history to the US. The person, a resident of Kasarvadavli, had tested positive for the virus on March 27 at Kasturba Hospital.

An officer from TMC said, “The person landed in Mumbai on March 21 from USA and had self-quarantined himself in a Mumbai-based five star hotel. He started showing symptoms and got admitted in Kasturba Hospital on March 26. His results came positive on March 27. He did not come to Thane, so there is less possibility of him coming in contact with any person from Thane. Still, we have sent a team to his house.”

The corporation has also sealed the private laboratory in Naupada area where a patient from Parsik Nagar had got himself tested. The person is still not ready to reveal the names of people he came in contact with,

The corporation has screened 1,800 patients till March 27, of which four are positive and 15 results are still awaited.

(with inputs from Rupsa Chakraborty and Megha Pol)

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