(Eds: Adding details and quotes) Mumbai, Mar 15 (PTI) Maharashtra has reported 32 positive cases of novel coronavirus so far, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said here on Sunday.
He announced that the laboratory capacity to test samples of suspected novel coronavirus will be expanded to 350 per day from the present 100 per day at the civic-run Kasturba hospital in Mumbai in the next two days.
Tope said another laboratory will be set up at KEM hospital in Mumbai in the next two days. New laboratories will also come up at JJ Hospital, the Haffkine Institute--also in Mumbai, besides at BJ hospital in Pune in the next 15-20 days.
He said a decision has already been taken on this regard. 'Orders will be issued either on Monday or Tuesday and the facility will be ready within 15-20 days,' he added.
'Maharashtra has 32 confirmed positive cases of novel coronavirus as of now including nine people who are admitted at Kasturba hospital,' the minister told reporters after reviewing the quarantine facility and other infrastructure at Kasturba hospital.
Tope said that 250 samples can be tested at the new facility at KEM hospital.
'250 samples with new machines and around 100 with old existing set up can be tested from Wednesday,' he said, adding that another lab will be set up at KEM hospital by Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the state government has appealed to the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) to postpone its upcoming exams till March 31, apparently in view of rising cases of viral transmissions.
'The chief minister has appealed to the MPSC, which is an autonomous body, to conduct exams after March 30. I am confident the MPSC will conduct the exams after March 30,' he said.
Tope said he reviewed wards in Kasturba Hospital where COVID-19 cases as well as the suspected patients are being treated. He also visited the OPD facility.
Presently, nine Coronavirus positive patients are being treated at the hospital while 80 other suspected cases are kept in isolation.
'The hospital has capacity of 80 beds, which we are increasing to 100,' he said.
The minister further said facilities like television, WiFi are being provided to patients at the hospital, along with newspapers, food and fruits.
Tope said the hospital has sufficient number of N95 masks, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and other gears for its staff and doctors.
The minister said that police protection will be provided to the hospital as 350 patients visit its OPD per day.
Tope said the quarantine facility at the SevenHills Hospital in Mumbai will be expanded to 1000 within a week. The hospital currently has the capacity of 400 beds.
He said the testing facilities at semi-urban Dhule, Aurangabad, Solapur, and Miraj will be established within one month.
The Health Minister further said the state government has taken adequate steps to contain the coronavirus infection.
He said district collectors are being empowered to take necessary actions about locking down rural areas, depending upon the situation.
Tope directed officials to cancel all social, political, government and other gatherings where people come into contact with one another.
'Viral diseases can be cured automatically with our immunity. Hence I will appeal and request people to not panic and don't get scared. At the same time, it is necessary to follow instructors of doctors like adhering to respiratory etiquettes and washing hands repeatedly,' he said.
Tope later told reporters at Mantralaya that 18 of the 32 people who tested positive to novel coronavirus had visited the USA, France, and the Philippines while a big group of people had visited Dubai.
'These infected people further infected 14 others who came into their contact,' he said.
Replying to a question on the forthcoming elections to civic bodies, the minister said the Election Commission will take a call.
Stating that operations of buses and trains cannot be suspended, Tope said that people should travel only if it is necessary.
Maharashtra has already invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 that gives wide-ranging powers to officials to enforce measures, including that of lockdown and quarantine, required to tackle an outbreak.
The state government has ordered the closure of educational institutions, theatres, malls, parks, swimming pools, gymnasiums etc to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Yavatmal, Thane and Ahmednagar. PTI KK NSK NSK