Rising COVID-19 Tally Worrisome; People Defying Lockdown: Tope

Mumbai, Apr 9 (PTI) Amid the growing COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra, health minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday unveiled new measures like deployment of SRPF in Mumbai's congested areas and enlisting Fire Brigade to sanitise public toilets here to minimise chances of coronavirus contraction.

He expressed concern over the number of COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra not coming down despite best efforts by authorities.

As the state continued to lead the nationwide tally in positive coronavirus cases, Tope lamented that some people are defying the ongoing lockdown, enforced to halt the spread of COVID-19, on some pretext or the other.

In a statement issued in the evening after a cabinet meeting, Tope said the state will open some closed schools and use them as temporary shelters for people living in highly congested areas as well for community kitchen for those who have lost jobs due to the lockdown.

"These are the decisions we have taken in the state cabinet, he said.

"Despite our efforts, the lockdown is being defied by people under various excuses. It is worrisome that the number of COVID-19 cases is not coming down.

"We have decided to deploy additional staff from SRPF to strictly implement lockdown in the congested areas identified as containment zones," the minister said.

"During my visits to densely populated areas such as Dharavi (Asias largest slum colony), I noticed that a large number of people are dependent on public toilets, spots from where infection can spread.

"Their are some public toilets, where one seat is used by some 200 people during the day. The state government has decided to use Fire Brigades powerful jet spray to sanitise such public toilets every one hour.

"It would minimise the chances of people transmitting the infection, he said.

Tope said food will be supplied to the homes of daily wagers who are out of job currently.

"Similarly, in high density areas, daily wagers, who had some small scale work at their homes, no longer have any source of income.

"We will use community kitchens as well as local NGOs to cook and supply food to their doorstep every day, he said.

"We have decided to covert school classrooms as temporary shelters for these people so that they can avoid crowding on roads and maintain social distancing strictly, the minister said.

Commenting on use of rapid tests to detect coronavirus, he said, The Centres permission is awaited for rapid tests."

The BMC has placed an order for one lakh testing kits, he said.

"Once we get the permissions, blood samples will be taken from frontline workers such as doctors, nurses, health service providers and police officials to check whether they have developed anti-bodies in their system.

This filtering will enable the state to decide on how to respond to the situation, the minister added.

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