'Big rise' in Maharashtra coronavirus cases, avoid travel
Mumbai, Mar 21: Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Saturday said the state has witnessed a 'big rise' in the number of coronavirus positive patients with the addition of 11 such cases, and appealed to the people to avoid using public transport to contain the spread.
Talking to reporters, Tope said the number of coronavirus positive patients in the state has increased to 63 with 11 new cases.
'Of the 11, eight have travel history abroad and three came in contact with the affected persons,' he said, adding that 10 cases are in Mumbai, while one is in Pune.
'A rise from 52 to 63 is big,' he said.
Of the total number of patients, 13 to 14 patients are those who came in contact with the positive patients.
'Rest all are import cases,' he said.
'The spread has been largely because of people who came from outside,' he said.
'I appeal to the people not to venture out. They should exercise self discipline by maintaining social distancing and hygiene,' he said.
'Ifthere is no reductionin crowd in public transport, a shutdown will have to be put in place. There is also an option of allowing people in public transport after checking their I-cards,' he said.
The suburban trains in Mumbai will function for essential activities, he added.
Tope said that the rise in the number of patients is a major cause of concern and people's cooperation is needed to fight out the outbreak.
'If people don't listen and continue to use public transport unnecessarily, we may have to think otherwise,' he said, adding that we are in Phase-2 and heading towards Phase-3.
Tope said the WHO and the Centre's guidelines say that virus survives in cool places or a longer time.
'So, not just the government offices, but people should also follow the guidelines of not using air conditioning systems,' he said.
He also said that the rush of the working class at the railway stations to head back to their home state is something to worry about.
'We have asked for increasing the number of outstation trains, so that those who want to go back to their native places, can do so. This will reduce crowding at railway stations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and Pune,' the minister said.
Tope said the government was closely monitoring the crowding in local trains after all offices and shops have been asked to shut down.
'We are in observation and appeal mode as of now.
Even the Centre feels that the public transport in Mumbai needs to be shut down. This was conveyed to (Sharad) Pawar saheb by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan,' he said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Pawar were in touch with the Centre.
The NCP chief talked to Harsh Vardhan over phone about the need to upgrade testing facilities, he said.
'Private labs should be given permissionto conduct testing and even medical colleges hospitals can do it. This will reduce the waiting period for reports,' he said.
'Planned surgeries in civic-run and medical college hospitals have been put off. As many as 7,000 quarantine beds have been added in the state,' he said.
Tope said the chief minister is likely to visit some railway stations to see if people are responding to avoid crowding.
When asked about the case of a woman testing positive in Pune despite not having travel history abroad or coming in contact with affected people, Tope said the investigation is on in this case to know how she got infected.