Coronavirus threat: Schools, colleges, cinema halls to be shut for 2 weeks in Gujarat

Two-wheeler riders wear masks in view of coronavirus threat in Ahmedabad on Sunday. (Photo: Javed Raja)

The Gujarat government on Sunday ordered the closure of educational institutions, including schools, colleges, tuition classes and anganwadi centres, as well as cinema halls and swimming pools for two weeks from Monday as part of its preventive measures against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) threat, a top official said. The state has not reported a single positive case of coronavirus as yet.

The state government has also requested all religious and community organisations not to hold any event for at least two weeks till March 29. It also imposed a ban on spitting in public places with a penalty of Rs 500 for violators. The decisions were taken in a high-level review meeting on coronavirus threat chaired by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel in Gandhinagar.

“For two weeks starting from Monday, all educational institutions, including schools, colleges, tuition classes, Anganwadis etc will remain closed. Teachers and office staff will attend the institutions but classes will remain suspended for a period of two weeks,” Chief Secretary Anil Mukim said.

“All swimming pools and cinema halls across the state will remain closed till March 29, starting with immediate effect,” he said after the meeting. “Coronavirus is transferred through droplets from an affected person. Considering this, the state government has banned spitting in the open. Those who are caught spitting in the open will be fined Rs 500. This will be enforced by municipal corporations and municipalities in urban areas and gram panchayats in rural areas,” he said.

The suspension of teaching work will continue till March 29. However, administrative work will go on as usual and all teaching and non-teaching staff are required to be present at these institutions.

In a separate circular issued by the education department late Sunday, instructions have been given to all schools, colleges and universities on their examination schedule. As per the circular, Class X and class XII board examinations of Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board and Central Board of Secondary Education will continue.

School and colleges where annual examinations have begin have been instructed to complete them within next week. In institutions where annual examinations are yet to begin have been asked to put them on hold till March 30.

“A fresh circular would be issued in the coming days for government primary, secondary and higher secondary examinations,” the circular stated. State transport (ST) buses across the state will be disinfected, according to the press brief.

As many as 78 suspected patients were examined of which 77 samples tested negative while the result for one was pending as of Sunday evening.

The meeting also discussed positive cases reported from neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. Instructions have been given to take effective steps to ensure no entry of virus from other states. Hospitals have been asked to ensure no shortage of masks and life-saving medicines. In addition to government hospitals, isolation wards have been set up in private hospitals too.

The meeting was attended by senior officials, including Chief Secretary Anil Mukim, Principal Secretary to CM K Kailashnathan and Secretary Ashwani Kumar, Health Commissioner Jaiprakash Shivahare, Primary Education Secretary Vinod Rao, AMC Commissioner Vijay Nehra, Ahmedabad Collector KK Nirala and Ahmedabad DDO Arun Mahesh Babu and Principal Secretary Health Jayanti Ravi.

The Gujarat government on Friday invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act which empowers officials to take several measures, including lockdown and quarantine, to stop an outbreak. The health department had announced that all seminars and conferences organised by the government will remain suspended till March 31.

Online exams

A four-hour meeting of higher education institutes was held on Sunday, chaired by Principal Secretary Education Anju Sharma and attended by vice-chancellors of 15 universities. After the meeting, instructions were passed on to all colleges and universities to organise online exams where possible and complete their ongoing examinations within one week.

“The universities have also been asked to consider holding online exams or any other ways of evaluation not requiring gathering of students during this period. Private universities with smaller numbers have expressed their consent in organising online exams,” said Sharma.

All mass transportation by universities have been suspended. Universities and education institutes have been directed to evolve strategies and proc-esses to effectively implement remote work and work from home policies for its employees as well as to devise strategies to deliver classes virtually.

The education department also asked institutes to postpone all events, meetings and programmes involving more than 15 persons till April 15. They can be rescheduled after reviewing the situation of coronavirus threat. All canteens, meeting rooms, prayer rooms and sports rooms will be closed down. Colleges and universities have also been asked to encourage students staying in hostels to return to their home towns.

“All students, faculty members and staff members must avoid all non-essential domestic travel and all international travel. Students, faculty members and staff members must report any travel history in the past 28 days or contact with persons who have travelled to COVID-19 affected destinations in the past 28 days through an online disclosure process to be established by the institution with immediate effect,” the directions stated.

Suspected case

Rajkot: A businessman who returned to his home in Rajkot from Germany has been referred to Rajkot Civil Hospital with suspected coronavirus symptoms. A private physician referred him on Saturday evening but he refused to be admitted and went missing. Health official tracked him down and after counselling, admitted him to the civil hospital on Sunday morning.

Dr Mitesh Bhanderi, chief district health officer (CDHO) of Rajkot district, said that the 25-year-old businessman went to a private physician with cold and fever and was referred to civil hospital. “He came to the civil hospital at around 6 pm on Saturday. While the hospital staff was completing formalities of his admission, he went missing,” Dr Bhanderi told The Indian Express on Sunday.

“The private physician shared his details and helped us track him. After our staff counselled him, the businessman agreed to be admitted to the isolation ward in civil hospital around 10 am Sunday,” said the CDHO.

Dr Manish Mehta, medical superintendent the hospital, said that the businessman returned from Germany three days ago. “He developed symptoms two days ago. His condition is not severe. We have sent his samples to GG General Hospital in Jamnagar for coronavirus testing. If he tests negative for the virus, we shall discharge him,” said Dr Mehta.

Dr Bhanderi said that before the businessman was admitted to the civil hospital, a woman was being treated in the same ward as a suspected patient of coronavirus. “So far, five persons who were admitted to Rajkot Civil Hospital with coronavirus symptoms tested negative,” the CDHO added.