Though the number of cases in Maharashtra is steadily dipping, state authorities are on alert owing to the fear of the new strain of coronavirus found in the United Kingdom (UK) and other countries
On Tuesday, the state recorded 3,018 new cases taking the total number of cases to 19,25,066. It also recorded 68 deaths taking the tally to 49,373.
According to a special surveillance report of the state health department, 43 people travelling from the United Kingdom (UK) from across the state were tested positive till December 29. This included 15 from Mumbai, seven from Thane, six each from Nagpur and Pune, two each from Nashik, Buldhana and Aurangabad, and one each from Nanded, Raigad and Washim.
The local authorities have sent 32 samples to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, for genome sequencing or to detect the presence of the mutant virus in these samples. The state has also tested 135 contacts of the travellers, of which seven have been found positive, the report states.
Of the 12 UK returnees that had tested positive for Covid, six have tested negative in the second round of testing. While all are quarantined, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said that none of them are being discharged since a final report from National Institute of Virology in Pune, is yet to be received. Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, said, “The rest of the six patients who are still positive are asymptomatic. We will wait for the NIV report to rule out any possibilities of the new strain of the virus.” Out of the 1,765 returnees from the UK, who have arrived in Mumbai between November 25 and December 22, more than 1,200 have been tested.
The big question now surrounding state authorities and health experts is if the new variant, that has led to a surge in infections in some countries, would also increase the number of cases in the state, which has been reporting less than 5,000 cases for more than 20 days now.
State health minister Rajesh Tope said in the wake of the third lockdown imposed in the UK, United States of America and the European countries, people here need to follow self-discipline. “There are limitations to the state health machinery. In the wake of the spike in the cases and the new strain of virus being found, people should follow Covid appropriate behaviour. The self-discipline is the only mantra to avert any such spike in Maharashtra,” he said.
Dr Subhash Salunkhe, chairman of communicable diseases prevention control and technical committee of the state said that there is no reason to panic as though the strain has been discovered now, it might have been circulating earlier too. “We have to be cautious and thoroughly prepared, however, the situation in Maharashtra is very stable now. The mutant virus does transmit faster, however, its virulence is not worrisome,” Dr Salunkhe said.
Dr Sanjay Pattiwar, public health consultant said that while the state might not see a surge in cases, it is still better prepared today to handle any eventuality. “While we don’t expect a surge in cases, people need to be very cautious. Even those who were infected by Covid-19 should not let their guards down as they can be re-infected.”
He further said, “As New Year celebrations could be a cause of concern. It is good that the state has restricted movement.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Mumbai recorded 537 cases and six fatalities, taking the total case-load to 2,92,008 cases and 11,094 total fatalities respectively. Pune, Nagpur and Nashik cities, which are among the highest contributors in the state, recorded 251, 225 and 241 respectively.
The union ministry of health and family welfare, on Tuesday, stated that six persons who returned from the United Kingdom (UK) to India were found positive for the new coronavirus strain, which is reported to be 70% more contagious than the current one.
Amidst the fear of the new strain, the state government on Monday issued an advisory urging citizens to stay at home on December 31 and January 1. Prohibiting cultural and religious programmes, the government has asked people to refrain from bursting firecrackers and avoid crowding at public places like the Gateway of India and Chowpatty.
The government has already imposed a seven-hour night curfew from December 22 till January 5 in the jurisdiction of 27 municipal corporations and empowered the district collectors to impose similar restrictions if they deem fit to contain the Covid-19 spread. This has effectively imposed restrictions on New Year parties and celebrations.
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