MUMBAI: Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said on Thursday that police have been asked to take action against those who violate the mandatory quarantine amid the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
Instances of persons, many of them with recent travel-history to a foreign country, ignoring the advice of home isolation have come to light in the last few days.
"There have been complaints of people who are under a mandatory quarantine period violating the norms and going out in public. I have asked the police to initiate action against them under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897," the minister said.
"There have been instances of people running away from the quarantine facility or not staying at home even after being asked by the health department officials," he said.
"The people returning from foreign tours are put under mandatory quarantine as a precaution. But there have been reports of people flouting quarantine which poses a serious threat to the health of other people," he added.
Earlier, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Health Minister Rajesh Tope had stated that the government does not wish to initiate punitive action against anyone, but travellers returning from abroad should abide by quarantine norms on their own.
Most of the confirmed Covid-19 patients in Maharashtra have returned from a foreign country.
Those who have travelled abroad recently should stay in home isolation for at least 14 days even if they do not have any symptoms of the disease, the government has said.
Three laboratories in Maharashtra, which are currently burdened with the task of testing samples of suspected novel coronavirus patients, are analysing samples not only from the state, but also from the neighbouring regions.
Of these three facilities, the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) is a global referral laboratory, which gets samples even from SAARC countries for confirmation of various types of infections, including coronavirus, a senior official said on Thursday.
"Global referral means its reports are considered valid even in other countries," he said.
Apart from the NIV, one lab is currently being operated at the Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Hospital (IGGMCH) in Nagpur and the other one at Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai.
"All these labs are meant not only to cater to particular geographies. They are supposed to carry out tests as per the requirement, and samples can come from any corner of the country," he said.
"Several samples of Indians stranded in Iran were flown back to India and taken to the NIV for confirmation. Once the reports were out, medication was administered to them," he said, adding that samples from Maldives were also tested.
Testing period for coronavirus detection is six hours, he said.
When asked about the Nagpur-based lab and the areas it covers, he said, "Samples from Vidarbha region as well as samples from Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are sent to this facility."
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope had said on Wednesday in Pune that around 10 new labs would be set up in the state in the coming days for testing samples of suspected coronavirus patients.
"Sample testing kits will be made available. The central government has approved 10 lakh new kits for all the labs in the country," he said.
Talking about the possibiliy of private labs being used for sample testing, the minister had said, "As per the new advisory, private labs have been allowed, but the government will not bear any of their expenses."
The proposed laboratories in Maharashtra will include two each in B J Medical College in Pune and Mumbai's Haffkine Institute, and one each in Mumbai's J J Hospital, in Aurangabad, Dhule, Miraj and Solapur, he had said.