With over 3,600 coronavirus cases and 200 deaths, Maharashtra continues to be the worst-affected state in the country. This, as it faces the crisis of thousands of anxious migrant labourers wanting to go home, and slum clusters where social distancing remains an idea far-fetched from reality.
The state, with a population of over 11 crore (according to the 2011 census), currently has over 3,648 positive cases of novel coronavirus, including 330 recoveries and 201 deaths. The metropolitan city of Mumbai is a hotspot, having recorded 126 deaths so far, and a few-months old Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP government is on its toes with all economic activity brought to a halt for at least 40 days.
Maharashtra coronavirus update April 18
The number of coronavirus patients in Maharashtra reached 3,648 on Saturday with 328 new patients being detected.
A health department official said out of 328, 184 new patients were found in Mumbai and 78 in Pune.
Six persons tested positive in Thane city, three in Bhiwandi, three in Thane district, five in Raigad, 11 in Mira Bhayander, five in Kalyan Dombivali, seven in Palghar, eight in Pimpri Chinchwad, three in Nagpur, two in Navi Mumbai, four in Satara, one each in Akola, Amravati, Nandurbar, Panvel, Aurangabad, Vasai Virar and Pune district, he said.
At least 37 police personnel, including eight officers, across the state have tested coronavirus positive since the outbreak, PTI reported. These police personnel, including 29 constables, possibly came contact with the COVID-19 patients while performing their duty during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has decided to pay Rs 2,000 each to over 12 lakh registered construction workers in the state who have lost their livelihoods due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.
In Bandra, migrant labourers out on street want to go home
Along with the most number of coronavirus cases in the state, India’s financial capital Mumbai is also faced with a humanitarian crisis. Early this week, over 2000 gathered outside Mumbai’s suburban Bandra railway station demanding to return to their native places, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an extension of the nationwide lockdown till May 3 to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Most of the migrant workers, who had gathered outside the suburban railway station Tuesday, complained about the lack of access to food and ration. Forced to share their cramped rented rooms with eight to 10 others and use common public toilets, the men said they more vulnerable to the coronavirus here and should be allowed to go home.
On Wednesday, the local authorities, including police officials, assured them that food would be provided and they would be moved to shelter homes if required. While fewer in numbers than in end March, migrant labourers have again hit the roads in Maharashtra.
Amid lockdown, some relaxation
With a lockdown extended “at least” till May 3, the Maharashtra government is considering a plan to provide industries one-time permission to transport their labourers, stuck within the state, to places of work so that operations can resume from April 20.
The government is also considering allowing industries, which operate within Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) areas in some municipal corporation limits, to operate provided they do not fall under containment zones. Sources said that one of the major challenges before industrial units would be getting labourers to resume operations.
Developers too will be allowed to undertake construction work in ongoing projects at COVID-19 hotspots of Mumbai and Pune after April 20. But to do this, they will need special permission from the respective civic commissioners. Also, only those projects where workers are available on site will be permitted. Builders won’t be permitted to bring workers from outside.
In what will come as a major relief to the over 1.31 lakh sugarcane harvesters stranded at 37 mills across the state, the government on Friday allowed their repatriation to their villages after undergoing medical examination.
In an order issued on Friday, Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta asked managing directors of these sugar mills to prepare an evacuation plan for the labourers who have been staying in temporary housing units at the mills for well over 14 days now.
The COVID-19 crisis and the nationwide lockdown came when the 2019-2020 sugar cane crushing season was on its last lap. Of the 143 factories milling this season, about 16 were operational and the migratory cane harvesters got stuck at 37 mills.
Social distancing in slum clusters
The threat of positive cases being reported from one of many slums in Mumbai loomed large ever since the outbreak marked its footprint in the state. When Dharavi reported its first positive case on April 1, officials faced the challenges of community tracing in a dense slum where over 23,000 people are huddled in less than a square kilometre of land.
So far, Dharavi has recorded 9 deaths and 86 cases. With COVID-19 cases being found in new localities, Dharavi now has 22 containment zones. The civic body has a 1,000-bed quarantine facility in Dharavi, where those seeking institutional quarantine will be kept.G/South ward, comprising Worli-Koliwada — one of the worst affected areas in the city — is shy of only 10 cases to reach the 400 mark.
As the state government continues to do micro-level planning for administering hydroxychloroquine to high-risk people as a preventive medication against COVID-19, BMC commissioner Praveen Pardeshi said the civic body will go ahead with administering the medication to 50,000 people in hotspots of Dharavi and Worli.
First challenge hits hard on first-time CM
Barely three months after he was sworn-in as the chief minister of Maharashtra, after joining hands with former rivals NCP and Congress, Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray faced his first challenge as the CM with the COVID-19 hitting hard on the state’s economy and daily life.
The Chief Minister has formed a task force of economists and other experts to help Maharashtra deal with economic distress, owing to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In a video address, he switched to Hindi from Marathi to connect with migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states and made a strong appeal to them to be patient, and stay back in Mumbai.
“Main kehta hoon kyun pareshan ho rahe ho? Aap anya rajyon se yahan aaye ho, raho yahan. Hamare saath raho. Ek sankat hai, chunauti hai. Iska saamna milkar karenge. Aap kyun darte hain? Koi ghar jane ki aavashyakta nahi hai. Aur hamey khushi nahi ho rahi hai aap ko ghar mein lock karke rakhe (Why are you worried? You have come from other states, stay here with us. We have a crisis at hand, its a challenge. Lets face it together. There is no need to return now. We too are not happy keeping you locked in your homes.),” Thackeray said.
Like the rest of the country, Maharashtra is aiming to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus cases. Maharashtra, with a 6.6 per cent mortality rate, is among the worst three affected states in India. 89.27 per cent of the cases are concentrated in Mumbai, Pune, and Thane, and 83 per cent of recovered patients are also from these three district
With testing criteria modified to test only symptomatic people, the BMC Thursday registered a further reduction in fresh cases, with 107 testing positive for coronavirus in Mumbai, a drop from 140 on Wednesday and 204 on Tuesday. In two days, the cases have dropped by 47.5 per cent.
State officials said so far 300 patients have been discharged from isolation facility after recovery. On Thursday, five people were discharged. At least 71,076 people remained under home quarantine and 6,108 in institutional quarantine. Those under institutional quarantine are all high-risk people suspected to have coronavirus infection.
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