As 12 more people tested positive for COVID-19 in Maharashtra, taking the number of active cases to 31, the state government on Saturday announced the closure of all schools and colleges in urban areas till March 31. It also shut malls across the state till the month-end. Grocery stores, which sell commodities of daily need at the mall, will remain open.
State Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope announced in the Legislative Assembly that the directive to shut down schools and colleges will also apply to vocational and industrial training institutes, anganwadis and private coaching classes in the urban areas.
Till Friday, 19 people had tested positive to coronavirus — 10 from Pune, four from Mumbai, three from Nagpur and one each from Thane and Ahmedabad. On Saturday, 12 new cases were reported from Pimpri-Chindwad, Nagpur, Yavatmal, Mumbai, Thane and Raigad.
Five persons tested positive from Pimpri-Chindwad, said Tope. Four among them had come in contact with the group that had visited Dubai and returned on March 1. The fifth person, a man in his 30s, had returned from Phuket, Dr Pradeep Awate, state surveillance officer, said. One more person in Nagpur and two in Yavatmal tested positive for the virus, taking the total number of affected persons in Vidarbha to six. Nagpur civil surgeon D V Paturkar said: “The man is an acquaintance of the first person to test positive on Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, nine persons were quarantined at Yavatmal’s Government Medical College on Thursday, after one person, who had traveled with them to Dubai last month had tested positive in Pune. “Two of the nine samples from Yavatmal sent to Nagpur have tested positive,” said Amravati Divisional Commissioner Piyush Singh.
The remaining four cases were reported from Mumbai, Kalyan and Vashi in Thane and Kamothe in Raigad.
Officials said that among the new cases is the son of the 64-year-old man who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday at a private hospital in Mumbai after a trip to Dubai. On Friday, his wife had also tested positive. Another person who tested positive is a 37-year-old man who had traveled from the US and France. While a 49-year-old man, who tested positive, has a travel history to Philippines, the fourth belonged to the Dubai tour group, from which 15 people have already tested positive across the state.
“The three residents of Kalyan, Kamothe and Vashi, who tested positive, were brought straight from the airport after thermal screening,” said Dr Daksha Shah, deputy executive health officer.
The state government, invoking provisions of the Epidemic Act, 1897, on Friday had ordered the closure of gymnasiums, movie halls, swimming pools and theatres in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nagpur till March 31. While it had also shut schools and colleges in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad till further notice, it had cancelled all religious, cultural, political and sport events.
Tope on Saturday informed the Assembly that fresh cases detected in other urban centres prompted more restrictions to be put in place. “We had shut schools in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad on Friday. A demand was raised from other areas as well. After reviewing the situation, orders that all schools, colleges, training centres and anganwadis in all municipal corporations, municipal councils, zilla parishads and nagar panchayats, will remain closed till March 31. Orders will also apply to private coaching classes,” he added.
While saying that the examinations for SSC and HSC and other university exams will go on as per the timetable, Tope added, “The exam centres and the schools will have to exercise vigil to ensure that students who were unwell do not come into contact with other students.”
Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, meanwhile, announced that his department has issued directives for action to be taken against those indulging in rumour-mongering. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar appealed to the people to avoid lavish wedding ceremonies. “I send out an appeal to citizens to ensure that they avoid crowded places. Even in the case of weddings, I appeal to both the sides to limit the number of invitees. The administration has given clear instructions for various establishments to follow. In case anyone is found flouting it, strict action will be taken against concerned establishments,” he said.
Ahmednagar district officials said three persons who had got admitted at the civil hospital, after they returned from abroad, had fled the quarantine facility. While a police complaint has been filed, officials said, they later returned to the facility. When contacted, Tope said security would be tightened around the facility.