Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has urged people in the state to brace for the most challenging 15-20 days that the state will face as the Covid-19 outbreak which enters stage II threatens to enter stage III, when a huge spike in cases is expected. This has been the trend globally and the state has to now tread carefully so as to break this trend and ensure that cases don’t spike, he said, adding that it is ten days since the first coronavirus positive case was detected and Week 3 and Week 4 will test the state.
The total number of cases in Maharashtra has reached 39 with six new cases detected on Monday. Pune has the largest number of coronavirus positive cases at 16, followed by Mumbai at 6. Five of the Pune cases are through local transmission from those who were infected during their overseas visits. Thackeray said they do not want to enforce things or bring special laws to deal with the crisis and are not having a complete lockdown. He said they were banking on citizens and organisations voluntarily complying with the measures suggested by the government. He also expressed concern about the economic cost of the outbreak and its impact on the state’s economy and said his government was working on what the impact would be and how to mitigate this.
The government has announced a slew of measures to contain the spread from shutting schools and colleges across the state, postponing all exams, shutting all malls, pubs and discos to creating additional testing capacity to creating more beds for treating patients, including rooms in hotels for those patients who do not want to go to a government hospital and can afford to pay for these rooms as they await results of their tests or are quarantined. Section 144 (I) was used in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad to ensure that directions issued by the district administration was being followed and people were falling in line. The government has urged citizens to remain at home and take the isolation and quarantine instructions seriously.
Pune’s Divisional Commissioner, Deepak Mhaiskar, met industry representatives in Pune on Monday, urging them to permit employees to work from home wherever it was possible and following strict protocol at the workplace. He said while they do not want production to be impacted and are only sending advisories and not going to enforce anything on the industry. However, IT companies will be urged to seriously consider this option for a larger section of their workforce, he said.
The state is releasing funds from the State Disaster Relief Fund to all district administrations to deal with the outbreak. The Maharashtra state government has sought clearance from the central government to add three more testing labs in Maharashtra. Currently, these tests can only be done at National Institute of Virology in Pune and Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai. Maharashtra state health minister, Rajesh Tope, said they have requested the central government to permit the BJ Medical College in Pune, JJ Hospital and Haffkine Institute in Mumbai to be allowed to carry out the test to reduce the burden on the current test labs as Maharashtra is the worst hit state in the country.
The Maharashtra government has also urged the election commission to postpone polls to gram panchayat, municipal councils and corporations scheduled across the state by three months.