MUMBAI: With nine more coronavirus cases confirmed in Maharashtra on Saturday, the state has overtaken Kerala to have the highest number of cases in the country with 26. Of these, ten have been quarantined in Pune, five in Mumbai, four in Nagpur, two in Yavatmal and one each in Navi Mumbai, Kalyan, Thane, Panvel and Ahmednagar.
Most of the coronavirus patients in the state had returned from the UAE, France and the US and their average age is 40. The Maharashtra government has already invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 to prevent large gatherings and cancelled religious and public functions across the state.
The government also issued a notification on Saturday to close down schools and colleges across the state till March end although the exams will be held as per schedule. Theatres, gyms and swimming pools will be also closed till the end of the month.
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Four coronavirus suspects who were admitted to the Nagpur Mayo civil hospital had run away late on Friday night without informing hospital authorities. However, the police tracked them down and brought them back to the hospital on Saturday afternoon.
"These patients came to know that one coronavirus positive patient is also in the same hospital. They were afraid that if they came in contact with the patients, then they would also be infected. People should take the epidemic seriously and not put the lives of others in danger," said Nagpur collector Ravindra Thakre.
Thakre said they had also identified the families of these four patients and others who had come in contact with them. "We are taking their blood samples and asked them not to mingle with anyone else until their test reports are out. People should come forward and cooperate to prevent the virus spreading to other regions," he added.
Dr Rajendra Shingane, the food and drug minister, said a couple in Yawatmal was also suspected to have been infected with the virus. "We told them not to come in contact with other people. Despite this warning, they left their homes. Then we have to use the police force to detain them in their home only. We have taken their samples for testing. We have also deployed the police permanently at their house," he said.
He also said that he had called a meeting with sanitizer producers. "We told them this is an emergency situation so there should be no shortage of sanitizers. People should not hoard it. We also appealed to them to increase the manpower in their firms so that they can raise production. The sanitizer is not the solution to end the coronavirus but it is one of the preventive measures to keep ourselves clean," he added.
Shingane said the raw material for sanitizers comes from China. "China is also facing the coronavirus so there are some difficulties in importing the raw material. However, we will find a solution soon. We have told the firms to find an alternative that can be used to produce sanitizers," he said.