BY QUAID NAJMI
Mumbai, March 18 (IANS) With the number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases touching 45 in the state, Maharashtra’s anti-coronavirus battle became even fiercer on Wednesday with more testing and quarantine facilities coming up, besides the all-out efforts implemented to avoid the challenge of keeping the crowd at bay in public areas and at workplaces.
The number of cases shot up from 41 to 45 on Monday with new cases testing positive from Mumbai, Pune and Ratnagiri. The Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), Pravin Pardeshi, has ordered shutting of all shops, business establishments etc. on alternate days to reduce crowd on the roads. The order will be implemented after the concerned ward heads submit details to the MCGM.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray reviewed the situation on Wednesday with all the concerned departments and said that a limit of 50 per cent staff will be implemented in all government departments.
He said the number of suburban trains and buses will be reduced, standees won’t be permitted and those seating would be kept at a safe distance as precautionary measures.
Thackeray urged the restive people of Mumbai, with 17 million people and the state with a population of nearly 12 crore, not to panic or stock up essentials as there is sufficient availability of everything, including medical items.
However, Thackeray said the government plans to implement shift hours for retail shops/markets in different urban localities.
After making repeated appeals for ‘work from home’, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has now warned of punitive action against those private companies which fail to implement 50 per cent staff norms or disallow work from home.
State Health Minister Rajesh Tope announced that from Thursday, additional coronavirus testing labs will start operating at KEM Hospital and Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai and BJ Medical College in Pune. In the next few days, a total of eight more laboratories shall be opened, including at Haffkine Institute in Mumbai. They will test around 250 samples daily.
“We may even permit private labs to take up testing, but only after taking all the necessary permissions,” Tope said after visiting the National Institute of Virology in Pune on Wednesday.
He said that there are over 800 beds for quarantine in Pune and permission will be given to open quarantine facilities in private hospitals too.
In Mumbai, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has permitted several private hospitals to start isolation wards with 88 beds. They include Hinduja Hospital (20), Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital (17 beds), Lilavati (15), Raheja (12), Jagjivan Ram WR (10), Jaslok (5), Bombay Hospital (4), H.N. Reliance (2), Gurunanak (2) and St. Elizabeth (2).
Meanwhile in Mumbai, the Minister for Food & Civil Supplies, Rajendra Shingane, swooped on some pharmacies following complaints of black marketeering of masks, sanitisers and other stuff. He has issued instructions to deal with such wilful offenders in the sternest manner.
The MCGM has started imposing a hefty fine of Rs 1,000 for people found spitting in public, while the Bhiwandi Police in Thane slapped a case against Arihant Mattresses for making false claims of ‘anti-coronavirus’ beddings. Actions are also being initiated at various levels against those spreading fake messages on social media.
Local organisations, like the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi legislators — the father-son duo of Hitendra Thakur and Kshitij Thakur — are distributing masks among bus passengers in Palghar and disinfecting all public buses for public safety.
Meanwhile, Mumbai and Pune — the two worst-hit cities with maximum coronavirus cases — appeared to be pausing in their steps with visibly reduced commuters in trains and buses, though the number of private vehicles on roads and highways hasn’t shown a noticeable decline so far.
All beaches in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg are near-deserted, as also the prominent hill stations in the Western Ghats, resorts, wildlife sanctuaries, tourist destinations etc.
All major places of worship like temples, churches, mosques-mausoleums and gurdwaras have shut their doors for devotees while some religious organisations and sects are now offering online prayers, namaz etc. to keep the crowd and the virus away.
The state has already elapsed into partial shutdown with all schools, colleges, malls, theatres, cinemas, gyms, swimming pools closed till March 31.
Now the locks are down on recreational activities like clubs, pubs, discos, bars, paan-cigarette vendors and some restaurants in Mumbai, Pune and Thane for varying periods as the ‘state versus virus’ battle intensifies.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)