In an unprecedented move, the state government in Maharashtra – where maximum coronavirus cases have been reported in India – on Monday said it would “stamp” all those who have been sent to home quarantine amid scare over the pandemic.
The left hand of those under home quarantine will be stamped to identify them easily, said Health Minister Rajesh Tope.
The decision, taken at a meeting of top officials chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, has been described as a precautionary measure after 39 cases of coronavirus or COVID-19 were detected in the state and around seven suspected patients escaped from treatment centres in the last few days.
Late on Monday evening, Greater Mumbai’s Municipal Commissioner Pravin Pardeshi issued an order to all officials concerned at hospitals and the airport, asking them to ‘stamp’ behind the left palm of those under home quarantine, dates of isolation, with ink that would last for 14 days.
“It is not a crime if somebody is infected by Covid-19. They must be given proper medical treatment and psychological support. The Epidemic Diseases Act has been invoked in the interest of the people and the district administration must create awareness on it,” Mr Thackeray said.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that a stamp with indelible ink – applied to voters during elections – will be imprinted on the left hand indicating “that person/patient is under compulsory home quarantine” till March 31.
“This will help other people identify them if they break home quarantine and mix among the public during their home isolation period,” he said.
The state government has also made it a punishable offence if any person attempts to evade the compulsory quarantine, or breaks ‘home quarantine’ and would forcibly move such person to a government isolation facility.
Additionally, entry to Mantralaya — the state government headquarters and a major public hub — shall be banned till March 31, except for those on official duties, days after the Maharashtra Legislature’s Budget Session was curtailed by a week in view of the coronavirus precautions.
All upcoming local bodies and civic elections have been postponed by three months, the shutdown of academic institutions in urban centres has been extended to cover all educational institutions even in rural areas.
Mr Thackeray announced a special Rs 45 crore fund to tackle the pandemic to be distributed among the Divisional Commissioners at Konkan and Pune (Rs 15 crore and Rs 10 crore, respectively), while Rs 5 crore each will be disbursed to Nagpur, Amravati, Aurangabad and Nashik.
While religious activities can continue unhindered, there must be absolutely no crowds of devotees at any religious place, the Chief Minister said.
Mr Thackeray appealed that those who have been advised home quarantine must voluntarily refrain from stepping out in public to prevent any risk to others.
Taking a cue, Mumbai’s famous 220-year old Siddhivinayak Temple decided to shut down for an “indefinite period” though its Health Department, which provides medical aid to needy persons, will function as usual.
Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple Trust Chairman and actor Aadesh Bandekar said that the decision has been taken as a precaution against coronavirus and the popular place of worship will be closed “until further orders”.
Simultaneously, the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST) has ‘advised’ all Saibaba ‘palkis’ (palanquin processions) coming from all over Maharashtra and other parts of the country to defer or cancel their processions for the time being.