Updated: March 13, 2020 4:45:49 am
As fear gripped residents on Thursday after a person in Mumbai and another in Thane tested positive for COVID-19, the city braced itself to contain its spread. Commuters avoided public transport, tour operators were flooded with cancellation requests, public events were cancelled or curtailed and schools took precautionary measures.
Auto-rickshaws and taxis saw low passenger turnout. According to A L Quadros, union leader of Taximens’ Association, while taxi drivers found it difficult to get passengers at airports, those plying on the streets saw a 25 per cent drop in passengers.
At railway stations too, the crowd was less though daily ticket sales did not show a significant drop. “There seems to be a drop in regular passengers who are pass-holders,” said a WR official.
On the Mumbai-Delhi route, several bookings have been cancelled. Around 2,000 cancellations were reported between April and June on Rajdhani Express. Another 1,221 cancellations were reported on August Kranti Rajdhani Express.
Passengers arriving at the city airport have also dipped drastically. In a span of 24 hours, between March 11 and March 12, the airport saw 10,540 inbound passengers. On average, the airport handles over a lakh passengers everyday at normal times. Tourists from nearly 15 countries, where the outbreak is widespread, are being examined in isolation wards, a spokesperson said, adding, “Friday onwards, as tourist visas, barring exceptions, stand cancelled, it should reduce the footfall further”.
Tour and travel operators in Mumbai too are facing the pinch. Prabhulal Joshi, president of Maharashtra Tour Organisers’ Association (MTOA), said people are cancelling international tour packages and demanding their money back. “If we take Rs 25,000 from a customer, we immediately pay around Rs 20,000 to the airline and hotel to ensure we do not suffer if the dollar or other foreign currency rate goes up. So we have paid the money to airlines and don’t know how much will we get back…,” Joshi said.
Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar has urged tour operators to postpone domestic as well as international tours. “The spread of the virus has created panic… Taking note of the situation and as a precautionary measure, tour operators should postpone or cancel tours,” Pednekar said.
While footfalls across malls has, as of now, not fallen, hotels and pubs are already feeling the heat. “As of now we have not witnessed any negative impact… Footfalls in malls have remained same and businesses are doing fine. However, we have instructed our staff and partners to take measures to avoid any risk. We have also given employees hand sanitisers and masks,” said Sachin Dhanawde, COO, Growel’s 101 Mall in Kandivali East.
Several big public events have been affected. The Zee Cine Awards, to be held in MMRDA grounds in BKC, Bandra, on March 13, has been shut for the public. “As a measure of precaution on account of the continuing concern over COVID-19, the ceremony for ZEE’s annual film awards property — Zee Cine Awards 2020 — stands cancelled for the general public… Instead, the awards will now only be shot as a televised show. We would like to assure fans who had purchased tickets for the event… that they will be refunded at the earliest,” an official statement from Zee TV said.
Two of Mumbai’s prominent museums have cancelled upcoming public programmes. The Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla has cancelled all upcoming screenings, walk-throughs and workshops. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya has also cancelled all its public programmes and children’s educational programmes. As of now, both museums will stay open.
Similarly, the release of “Sooryavanshi” has been postponed. Both actor Akshay Kumar and director Rohit Shetty tweeted that though the response to the trailer “was nothing less than electrifying” they have decided to postpone the release, keeping in mind the health and safety of the audience. The film was slated to release on March 24. Another film “Is Love Enough? Sir”, which was to be released on March 20, has also been postponed.
While state board schools are awaiting directives from the government, some international schools on Thursday announced that they would be shut for a few days. As the school education department is yet to take a decision, BMC schools will remain open while following precautionary measures.
Students of Utpal Sanghvi Global School were let home early on Thursday. Friday has been declared a holiday. The school will reopen on Monday, when the situation will be assessed afresh. “…we decided to keep the school closed for two days as a precautionary measure,” said principal Rakhi Mukherjee.
Many international schools observe spring break around this time. Dhirubhai Ambani International School on Thursday decided to pre-pone its spring break by a day, from March 14 to March 13. Nahar International School in Chandivali also pre-poned its spring break from March 23 to March 13. The school is well-prepared to conduct online classes, principal Vandana Arora said in a letter to parents.
Meanwhile, parents of children in primary and pre-primary schools want the government to take immediate action. “All parents are concerned as we can’t expect small children to take care of themselves. We want the government to take immediate action and make arrangements for Class 10 and 12 exams the way the Delhi government has responded,” said Anubha Sahai, president, India Wide Parents Association.
Xavier School of Management has postponed its annual convocation on March 21. Director Fr P Christie SJ said, “In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in India and globally we have decided to postpone XLRI’s annual convocation for an unspecified time. The decision… has been taken to avoid putting our students, staff and their families at risk.”
Bar association issues notice on precautionary steps
Mumbai: In view of the outbreak of the pandemic of coronavirus, the Bombay Bar Association (BBA) issued an urgent notice on Thursday, requesting precautionary steps for litigants, lawyers, staff and visitors.
The Bombay High Court has over 3,000 employees, as well as hundreds of litigants and lawyers who visit the High Court building every day.
The BBA suggested that the acting chief justice, Justice Bhushan P Dharmadhikari, take measures such as placing temperature guns at security checks of the High Court. If a person is found to be running a temperature, steps for investigation need to be taken, the notice said.
The BBA has also asked its member advocates to take precautionary measures such as using hand sanitizers and masks, and to cover their mouths with handkerchiefs while sneezing or coughing in court premises. It has also asked lawyers to avoid shaking hands while greeting.
The association has also asked members to not hold meetings with clients in its premises in the High Court building. —ENS
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