Updated: March 17, 2020 4:14:19 pm
With the number of COVID-19 cases in the state increasing, the Maharashtra government on Monday began marking all those who have been medically advised to self-quarantine with a stamp in indelible ink and the words ‘Home Quarantine’ in a bid to ensure they isolate themselves for 14 days. The ink is the same that is used to mark voters at elections.
Following a review meeting on measures taken to tackle coronavirus in the state, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Monday that the decision to mark those who have been advised home quarantine in this manner had been taken to install a sense of responsibility in them.
“Those who require self-quarantine but don’t want to stay in hospital or hotels and want to go home, they should have a sense of responsibility. They should not roam around freely. They should follow quarantine strictly,” Uddhav told mediapersons.
People who are advised home quarantine are those who have history of foreign travel, or contact with those with a history of foreign travel but have no symptoms of the virus.
Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope who was also present, said while 39 people have tested positive for the virus in Maharashtra, 108 people had been quarantined in various hospitals and 621 have been advised home quarantine.
“People who have been advised to self-quarantine will be stamped, like during elections, on their hand mentioning that the date — until when they should be indoors… If such people go out, others can identify them as home quarantine patients. This is being done so that patients strictly observe home quarantine,” said Tope.
Further, Uddhav said the state government has decided to postpone all university exams and close all schools in rural areas till March 31 but the exams of classes X and XII will continue as scheduled. Earlier, only urban schools had been shut down.
“We have also requested the State Election Commission to postpone local bodies’ elections, such as gram panchayat, municipal council and corporations, by three months,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dubai in UAE, Saudi Arabia and the US have been added by the state to the list of seven countries most affected with COVID-19. These countries will now figure along the high-risk ones like China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain and Germany.
Uddhav said the issue of quarantine patients running away from hospitals was discussed. “One patient, who allegedly ran away, was found in the hospital premises. We have given instructions to treat them kindly. Also, there should be no social boycott of such people,” he added.
Tope said that some of the reasons seem to be fear in their minds of the people. “Apart from educating them, we will also provide them facilities such tea, breakfast, meal and entertainment material, including TV and newspaper, so that they can feel comfortable to stay in hospital,” he added.
When asked about whether the state would be completely locked down, Uddhav said, “There is no such plan for a complete shutdown. If people cooperate with us, then such a situation will not arise.” He added that he had held a meeting with secretaries and asked them to suggest measures to prevent the impact of coronavirus on the state economy.
He further said that the administration has banned the entry of visitors at Mantralaya from Monday and the district collectors have also been asked to to avoid calling people to their offices.
“While we have given Rs 15 crore and Rs 10 crore to Konkan and Pune divisional commissioners, respectively, Rs 5 crore each have been given to all other divisional commissioners for immediate expenses,” he added.
The Raj Bhavan in Mumbai said it was suspending the practice of allowing in tour groups for sightseeing, from Tuesday until March 31. In a statement, Raj Bhavan said the decision had been taken “as a precautionary measure to avoid crowding at one place”. Those who had confirmed bookings to visit would be accommodated at a later date, it added.
Asked about the ongoing Mumbai Bagh protest against CAA, NRC and NPR, Tope said, “We have taken note of it. Instructions have been issued for their proper counseling. The government will make efforts to ensure that the crowd doesn’t increase.”
Meanwhile, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to use 5-star hotel rooms to beef up its quarantine facilities.
Two hotels — Mirage and ITC Maratha near Mumbai international airport — have agreed to spare some empty rooms for the BMC to turn them into quarantine zones. These rooms will located be in a separate section of the hotels. Travellers who wish to stay in the hotel for the 14-day quarantine period can avail the services at a fixed rate.
Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi, who addressed the media along with Uddhav, said, “The rooms will be made available at a reduced tariff. We are in negotiations with hotel owners.”
The BMC is also in talks with other hotels in the city. “After Seven Hills Hospital, BMC now activates Mirage Hotel (near Airport) to turn it into quarantine facility for travellers coming from abroad and choosing to pay for it. After 24 Hrs, guests will be asked to be home quarantined,” tweeted BMC.
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