Mumbai: As the number of coronavirus positive patients increased by a record 12 to 64 in Maharashtra, Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope has raised an alarm.
“We are planning to start a system where even people who are working in essential services will be allowed to use local trains and buses after showing their ID cards. If the crowds at bus and train stations don't reduce, we will have to take stricter decisions,” he warned.
Tope's warning comes after he noticed large gatherings of passengers at railway stations to leave for their native places. “Even though Mumbaikars have responded to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's appeal to avoid unnecessary travel, still there are some who are travelling by bus and trains.
Those working in essential services may have to show their ID cards while travelling in bus or trains,” he noted.
The minister also said that the government is closely monitoring local trains. “If large crowds continue at stations, we will have to shut down local trains in public interest,” 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.
Tope visited the ticket counters and platforms at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Tereminus which were milling with passengers wanting to take the first available train to their native place.
“However, I have asked the railway administration to regulate the crowd on the platforms, so that we adhere to social distancing norms. The gatherings should be regulated at ticket counters and platforms. Those taking through trains/mails should come to the station 45 minutes earlier, instead of five hours before departure to avoid congregation,” he said.
The minister informed that the government has ordered tests on all hospitalised patients with severe acute respiratory illness, shortness of breath and fever and cough for detection of COVID-19 infection. This is as per the revised strategy released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The minister said the government also wants minimal use of air conditioners in government offices, because the virus is reported to thrive longer in cold temperatures. “People should follow the guidelines issued by the Centre and the WHO where it has been advised that people should use fans and keep their windows open. We have requested the Centre to increase special trains for people who want to return to their native places. The railway stations are heavily crowded and more trains will help reduce crowds,” Tope said.