Schools, colleges, malls to be shut; 12 more cases in Maharashtra

Updated on Mar 15, 2020 10:59 PM IST
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ByKetaki Ghoge and Rupsa Chakraborty, Mumbai

On a day when Maharashtra saw 12 more people testing positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of cases to 31, the state government ordered all schools, colleges, coaching classes and shopping malls to shut down till March 31.

Health minister Rajesh Tope said grocery stores, which sell commodities of daily needs, will remain open. The state had on Friday shut down cinema theatres, auditoriums, swimming polls and gymnasiums.

While Mumbai, Kalyan, Kamothe, Navi Mumbai (Vashi) and Nagpur recorded a case each on Saturday, five people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Pimpri-Chinchwad and two in Yavatmal. “Fortunately none of them are in critical condition,” said Tope. “The prohibitionary measures have been introduced to avoid crowds and thus prevent spread of the virus.”

The minister said all board (Class 10, 12) and college exams will be conducted as per schedule and it will be the responsibility of institutes and parents to ensure that students, who are unwell, do not interact with other students.

Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray warned of action against those who do not follow the government’s orders.

“Those who do not follow the orders will have to face action under the Act [Epidemic Act, 1897]. We don’t have to give every individual cinema theatre owner a notice. We have announced that there will be shut down and if they continue to stay open, action will be taken against them,” he said.

Thackeray said the government had created “enough facilities to quarantine suspected patients” and the cost of their treatment was being borne by the state.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) health department said the person who tested positive in Mumbai on Saturday is the son of the 64-year-old coronavirus patient, who was earlier admitted to Hinduja Hospital. The senior citizen’s wife, too, had tested positive for the virus on Friday. All three family members are now undergoing treatment at the isolation ward of Kasturba Gandhi Hospital.

The three people from Kalyan, Kamothe and Navi Mumbai were identified and isolated after thermal scanning at the Mumbai airport. They had come back to the city from Philippines, France and the United States of America (USA), respectively.

Meanwhile, as the number of people undergoing tests increases, the civic body decided to start their second testing centre at King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospital in Parel. “We will start the facility in the next seven days. We are waiting for a final approval from the Central government. However, patients will not be admitted to KEM. All those who test positive for the virus will continue to be quarantined at Kasturba Hospital,” Dr Daksha Shah, deputy director, BMC health department.

The government also plans to start three more testing centres, including one at JJ Hospital and one at Haffkine Institute, said a senior medical education official, who did not wish to be named.

Meanwhile, the chief minister reiterated that public transport systems such as trains and buses have not been closed down as they are essential services and individuals should adopt personal hygiene etiquettes. “I have already said that those who can should work from home. Everyone [those who don’t have symptoms] does not need to wear a mask. Just avoiding spitting and cover face while sneezing, coughing in public places, besides regularly washing hands. The N5 mask is for health care workers,” said Thackeray.

The government also asked all organisers to cancel scheduled functions, rallies, seminars and events to avoid crowding. “We urge people to avoid big weddings. Limit it to family gatherings. All public and private organisers should at their level provide sanitisers in common areas,” said Tope.

Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the government needs to be more proactive in handling the virus outbreak. “We are seeing kneejerk reactions. The government needs to plan ahead and take proactive steps like decentralise powers, including financial ones, to district-level to allow collectors to take decisions...” he said.

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