A resident of Vapi in South Gujarat met Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel in Gandhinagar on Friday and sought government help to bring back his daughter along with 64 other students who are currently in Barbados, an island country in the Caribbean.
The resident, Dharmen Patel, told The Indian Express, “I spoke to my daughter Aayushi in the morning. She is pursuing her medical degree and like others they are scared because of the outbreak of coronavirus in the country. They want to come back and the only way for them to return is to take flights through UK, US or Germany. But as India has closed all international flights they are unable to return.”
He said while some students are in the university hostels, his daughter and a few others are living in private apartment. These stranded students are from the American University of Barbados and American University of Integrative Sciences School. There are about 8 students from Gujarat who are stranded. Apart from Vapi, there are students from Surat, Ahmedabad and Valsad. The rest are from states like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Nagaland and Telengana.
Regarding his meeting with Deputy Chief Minister on Friday, Dharmen said, “He listened with patience and assured of all possible help. He also asked Chief Secretary Anil Mukim to get in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs in this regard.”
Hitesh Vaghela, a resident of Ahmedabad and father of Sujaan who is studying with Aayushi, said, “We are in touch with our son on a daily basis. We want the government to intervene and bring back our kids by a direct flight as we fear countries, including US might lock down in the near future. Barbados being a small nation, the chances of the virus spreading rapidly is very high.”
On Thursday, Nitin Patel told the Gujarat Assembly that the state government was planning to bring back all those Gujaratis who have gone for study, work, business or tourism and are now stranded. The minister also said about a Gujarati student who was stranded in the Philippines.
Narrating her experience from Barbados, Aayushi Patel who is enrolled in the School of Medicine at the American University of Barbados, told The Indian Express, “The prime minister of Barbados has informed through social media to all the localities that the cases of coronavirus may increase. Barbados is a very small country and it won’t take much time for the virus to spread. We believe that people with this virus who came as tourists are still roaming around the island. We fear that the soon the grocery shops and all will close down.”
“Now apart from the 64 of us from the School of Medicine, there are other Indian students studying in other universities who also want to be rescued,” she added. On Thursday, Dharmen wrote a mail to the Government of India and Government of Gujarat, listing out the names and passport numbers of the students stranded on the Caribbean island. The letter points out that the nation with six isolation beds already has two positive cases. The students said they were ready to be quarantined as per government norms.
APMC yard in Unjha to shut for 12 days from Sunday
Hours after the total positive cases of novel coronavirus in Gujarat went up to seven, the Agriculture Produce Market Committee, Unjha in Mehsana district in north Gujarat on Friday announced that it would shut its yard for 12 days from March 23 as a precautionary measure.
Gondal and Rajkot AMPCs, the other two big wholesale markets of the state, also said that if the government asks them to shut operations, they would cooperate.
Unjha APMC, the largest trading of of spice seeds in the country said that it would remain shut from Sunday and would resume operations from April 3. “There were representations from traders and commission agents that due to spread of coronavirus infection in the country, they were finding it difficult to dispose of commodities they are purchasing from the yard every day. They said they were facing short-term clogging in the business channel, affecting their liquidity. They requested that the yard be shut down a few days in advance then the routine year-end shut down which was to begin from March 26,” Dinesh Patel, chairman of Unjha APMC told The Indian Express.
The chairman said that usually, after the year-ending shutdown from March 26 onward, the yard resumes operations from April 1. “But this year, the festival of Ram Navmi falls on April 2. Therefore, we have decided to extend the closure by one more day and not to resume operations from April 1 but from April 3 onward,” Dinesh Patel further said.
He added that Unjha has been recording arrivals of around one lakh bags of spice seeds, including cumin, fennel, isabgul, mustard and coriander. “Besides around 100 staff members of the APMC, around 2,500 farmers visit our yard to sell their commodities. An equal number of labourers work on the yard to handle the commodities. Around 1,700 traders and businessmen also remain present on the yard. The move will help ensure their safety,” said the chairman.
Jignesh Patel, president of Ujha Market Yard Vepari Association, said, “Given that 7,000 to 8,000 people remain on the yard on any day, some precaution was required,” said Jignesh.
Gopal Shingala, chairman of Gondal APMC in Rajkot, said, “I have called a meeting of the board of directors on Saturday to discuss the situation and take a call if we should also follow Unha.”
Devraj Sakhiya, chairman of Rajkot APMC, said, “If the government orders us to shut down, we shall oblige. But we believe closing down APMCs can lead to shortage of essentials like grain and vegetables in the retail market and retailers and whole-sellers can indulge in black marketing… We have ordered 2,000 masks and shall distribute them among labourers and farmers on Saturday. We shall also keep hand-sanitisers on the yard.”
Man booked for flouting quarantine rule, attending funeral of relative
Police booked a 35-year-old man who was found attending a funeral ceremony on Friday during his home quarantine period, thereby putting others on the risk of contracting the virus.
According to police, the accused, a resident of a posh society at Panjrapol intersection in Odhav of Ahmedabad, landed at the Sardar Vallabhbhai International Airport from Singapore on March 14.
As per officials, he was suspected to be a patient of COVID-19 and was asked to to be in 14-day quarantine at home. His test results were negative for COVID-19, yet, he was asked to undergo home quarantine for 14 days, police said.
On Friday afternoon, when health officials arrived at his residence in Odhav, unannounced, to check on him, he was not found to be there. When contacted, the patient replied that he had come out to attend a funeral ceremony of one of his relatives and he will be back at his residence in some time.
“After a complaint was lodged by the deputy health officer of East zone, we booked the accused under Indian Penal Code sections 188 and 270 for disobedience to an order given by public servant and malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life along with section of the Epidemic Diseases Act,” said RG Jadeja, police inspector, Odhav police station.
Police officials said that after the inspection officers found out that the suspected patient has fled from the quarantine, an alarm was raised within senior officials of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Police. The accused was then asked to return to his home.
“After the accused returned home, he was taken into an isolation van of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and with utmost care, he was sent to the government quarantine facility at Sardar Patel Stadium in Navrangpura. He had earlier tested negative for the COVID-19,” added Jadeja.
Police are now also investigating whether the accused had stepped out of his house on any other occasion as well in the past one week. (ENS)
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