Centre’s lockdown same as that in place in state now: GovtUpdated: Mar 25, 2020 00:46 IST
The Maharashtra government clarified late on Tuesday that essential and emergency services have been exempted from the 21-day nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as people across the state panicked and thronged markets.
Modi, too, said in a tweet that there was no need to panic as essential commodities, medicines, among others would be available. “Centre and various state governments will work in close co-ordination to ensure this,” the PM tweeted.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray reiterated that the lockdown remained the same as the one announced by him on Monday to battle the coronavirus disease pandemic. “There is no difference from the lockdown we imposed on Monday. I have spoken to the Prime Minister. He has assured me no essential and emergency services will be affected. Besides health services, grocery shops, banks and other essential services will continue to operate. There is no scarcity of food grains in the state and citizens should not worry about supply,” said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra’s tally of infected people on Tuesday rose by 10 to 107, even as Mumbai reported its third Covid-19 death after a 65-year-old man died after he was admitted to Kasturba Hospital. Officials said he had a history of high blood pressure and hypertension.
Anticipating a sharp jump in cases, the state directed administrations in Mumbai and Pune to identify hospitals that will only treat Covid-19 cases. As a contingency plan, the state is exploring the possibility of building a makeshift hospital with the help of the Army and has asked automobile manufacturers if they could manufacture ventilators.
State health minister Rajesh Tope has said that there could be a spike in cases by the end of the month or in early April. The trend across the world was of a sharp rise in coronavirus cases after a month from the first case. Maharashtra reported its first case in March.
“We have asked Mumbai and Pune authorities to identify a special hospital; a dedicated hospital so that the patients are not mixed like [it happened] in Italy. We are exploring the possibility of whether we can have makeshift hospitals with the help of the Army. The Army has the experience to set up a hospital immediately. It may not be required, but we are looking at it,” said Bhushan Gagrani, principal secretary, Maharashtra government. Mumbai has a 100-bed dedicated Covid-19 facility at SevenHills in Andheri, but the state is looking at another dedicated hospital as cases in the city are rising, an official said. Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad have recorded the most cases in the state. Mumbai has reported 41 cases, while Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad has recorded 30 positive case. On Tuesday, four more people were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the city.
Earlier in the day, disappointed over reports of police beating up people seen on roads and even preventing people engaged in essential services as well as complaints by the citizens pouring in, the state government brought more clarity in its notification on the shutdown announced a day before. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray addressed people of the state on Tuesday evening through a live stream and appealed to the police not to stop citizens from coming out of their homes for essential services and the people engaged in the emergency services sector.
After Thackeray announced a complete lockdown, terming it a state-wide ‘curfew’ on Monday, the government received complaints of police using force and resorting to lathicharge against people engaged in essential/emergency services. This upset the political leadership as it felt that it may damage the image of the government and may cause adverse effects of the “curfew” announced on Monday. The administration was immediately asked to amend its earlier order by issuing an amendment to bring more clarity on what is included in the essential/emergency services.
“At some places, police went overboard to take action against people venturing out of their homes. Vegetable vendors were not allowed to sit at their regular places, while in some areas, fruit vendors were shoved away from doing regular business. In Amalner, Jalgaon, a sugarcane-cutter family on their way to the cane farm was beaten up. Truck drivers on a national highway at Dhule were beaten up when they were preparing food for themselves by the roadside next to their halted vehicles after interstate borders were sealed. This created anger among people and we received a lot of complaints. This was discussed in the meetings at Mantralaya and the chief secretary was asked to issue an amendment to the notification,” said a Mantralaya official.
Thackeray in his address on Tuesday said, “Police should verify (before action) if the citizens coming out were for essential services or are engaged in the emergency services. The supply of essential commodities, agriculture produce, food grains and transportation of employees working in emergency services should not be obstructed. Companies/employers engaged in such services should clearly display their name stickers and ask employees to carry identity cards. In case of any difficulty in travel, police help should be sought by dialling 100,” he said.
State home minister Anil Deshmukh said that police will not block the vehicles engaged in essential/emergency services or take action against people coming out with valid reasons. He, however, said that police will not spare citizens who come out unnecessarily.
During a review meeting by deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar on Tuesday morning, he was also told that farmers were compelled to sell their vegetables and milk at a cheaper rate at the source point, when their prices had increased in cities owing to blockade of supply. The procurement was halted after vehicles were denied permissions to ply. “Many agriculture produce market committees (APMCs) have shut down operations after Mathadi workers refused to work. We have requested them to open shutters as it was affecting the supply chain. We have also assured them that vehicles carrying commodities will not be interrupted,” said an official privy to the developments.
Thackeray has also warned hoarders and black marketers to not take advantage of the situation. The amendment to the notification, while bringing more clarity to the lockdown, has included ports, related activities in the essential services and has given 72 hours to shut down chemical factories that need some time for safe closure. It has also allowed pre-monsoon work to be carried out.
Meanwhile, health minister Tope reviewed the state’s preparedness plan to chalk out a plan to tackle the ongoing crisis. “The state has already announced a lockdown, so to plan out the next course of action, we have reviewed the situation in detail. We have taken stock of how many Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits we have, how many isolation beds we have in government and private hospitals. We have decided to include critical coronavirus patients under the state’s Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana,” Tope said. The scope of MJPJAY, which covers medical aid for citizens below poverty line (BPL), has been expanded for coronavirus patients and 1,000 hospitals be included in it, Tope said.
The state is also staring at a shortage of ventilators. Currently, it has around 800 ventilators —including both public and private hospitals — in the state, officials said. “We have asked auto manufacturers in the state to manufacture around 2,000 ventilators. We are working on that,” said Gagrani. Ventilators will be crucial should Mumbai and other centres see a big wave in the weeks to come. Besides ventilators, the state is also short on adequate numbers of PPE kits, Gagarani said.
Vehicles and ventilators use many of the same components from circuit boards and pressure sensors to valves and pipes, but they are custom made. From a technical standpoint, carmakers in the west have the capabilities to build ventilators, but it would be time-consuming. Besides, ventilators are subject to strict government regulations that would be difficult for car manufacturers to achieve in a short span. A government official said that Indian manufacturers may not be able to build them due to technical reasons.
The state has asked state distilleries to manufacture alcohol-based sanitisers, so that there is no shortage. It is also looking to procure N-95 masks for medical staff.
The 65-year-old Covid-19 patient who died in Mumbai had returned from UAE on March 15 and on the same day went to Ahmedabad for medical treatment. Later, on March 20, he returned to Mumbai. But, soon after, he started developing symptoms of fever and breathlessness. He also had a medical history of high blood pressure and hypertension.
He got admitted to a private hospital for two days, but when his condition started deteriorating, on March 23, he was referred to Kasturba Hospital in the morning. “When he was taken to Kasturba Hospital, his condition was already critical as he already had several co-morbid issues. But before we could find out if he was a Covid-19 positive, he died within hours of admission. Later, we got his swab test report,” said Dr Daksha Shah, deputy health officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
According to BMC, the patient used to own a hotel in Dubai and came to India to visit a local doctor in Ahmedabad for spondylitis treatment. Later, he came to Mumbai for business purpose. Now, health officers have informed the officers in Ahmedabad about the patient. They have gotten in touch with his relatives who will take the body, so as to conduct the last rites. The body of the 68-year-old Philippines resident who died on Monday has been cremated by local community in Govandi.
Meanwhile. CM Thackeray also announced the launch of WhatsApp chatbot service (+912026127394) for queries and complaints related to the coronavirus and the lockdown imposed.