Curfews, Screenings & Travel Advisory: States on High Alert as India Sees Biggest Covid-19 Jump Since Nov

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Owing to a steep rise in Covid-19 cases, Maharashtra and Rajasthan governments imposed strict curfews in various places on Monday even as three states put in place measures to screen visitors from 'high-risk' Maharashtra which has registered a significant jump in cases in the last 15 days.

The Rajasthan government has imposed Section 144 in Jodhpur till March 21, while Maharashtra issued clampdown orders in Amravati, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad, Nashik, Aurangabad, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli, Akola, Yavatmal, Washim and Buldhana.

The Maharashtra government has asked people to strictly follow coronavirus norms, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. All religious, social and political gatherings have been prohibited in the state. Political agitations with crowds have been stopped temporarily.

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In Rajasthan, a cap of 100 attendees has been made mandatory for all public gatherings, including weddings. Only essential services and schools and colleges have been allowed to function, according to the order issued by the Jodhpur Police.

Kalaburagi district administration has issued a travel advisory for Maharashtra. Five check posts have been set up at the Karnataka-Maharastra border in the district. Travellers from Maharashtra, who enter Karnataka through the border at Afzalpura and Aland have to submit an RT-PCR negative test.

Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have also sounded a high alert across all adjoining districts and will also conduct thermal scanning of all those travelling from the high-risk state.

India's coronavirus tally surpassed 1.10 crore on Monday with 14,199 new infections while the number of active cases increased for the fifth consecutive day and went past 1.5 lakh after a gap of 17 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data. The total number of coronavirus cases in the country stands at 1,10,05,850. The death toll increased to 1,56,385 with 83 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

India added 4,421 active Covid-19 cases on Monday, the biggest jump since November 26. With this, the number of active cases increased to 1,50,055, which constitutes 1.36 per cent of the total caseload, the data stated.

Active cases were last recorded above the 1.5-lakh mark, at 1,51,460, on February 5. According to the health ministry, the surge in active cases is due to a spike in the number of daily infections in Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.

With Mumbai, too, witnessing a 36.38 per cent rise in active Covid-19 cases within the last 15 days, the BMC has cracked the whip on mask refuseniks.

Over 500 people were fined in the last 24 hours and the civic body collected over Rs 1 lakh in fine. A total of 16,02,536 people have been penalised in all this pandemic and a fine of Rs 32,41,14,800 has been collected from them in total, the BMC was quoted by ANI.

Careless attitude of citizens, allowing the general public to travel in local trains and opening of various other commercial activities were among the reasons behind the current surge in Covid-19 cases here, Mumbai civic officials said.

The country's financial capital reported 5,335 active Covid-19 cases on February 8, and the number went up to 7,276 on Sunday, according to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) data. Notably, on February 8, the city had recorded its lowest average growth rate of Covid-19 cases at 0.12 per cent and the highest average doubling rate of 574 days, as per the statistics.

At present, Mumbai's average growth rate of Covid-19 cases is 0.20 per cent and the average doubling rate is 346 days, according to the data. Though the daily COVID-19 cases have been rising in the city, the number of fatalities remained low, around three to five every day, as per the data.

According to BMC officials, the surge in daily cases started in the second week of February. On Sunday, Mumbai reported over 900 COVID-19 cases, as compared to less than 500 daily cases in the first week of February.

Civic officials said there are various reasons for the rise in cases, like the careless attitude of people towards COVID-19 protocols, allowing the general public to travel in local trains, opening of malls, offices, hotels and restaurants. BMC's Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said as restrictions were eased, crowds were witnessed at various marriage functions, other social events, and in malls, restaurants, pubs and clubs.

The number of passengers in local trains also increased from eight lakh (in January-end) to 22 lakh (after all members of the public were allowed in February), he said. "Many people are behaving as if the COVID-19 threat is not there. They are not following protocols at public places," Kakani said.

According to the BMC, it has already increased daily COVID-19 tests from around 15,000 earlier this month to over 22,000 now. "Among the positive cases, the number of asymptomatic persons is more," Kakani said.

The civic body is also trying to find out if the virus has mutated. Kakani said they have already sent 90 samples to the Pune-based National Institute of Virology to check for any mutation of the virus.

It takes 10 to 15 days to get the report from the institute, he said. Since last week, the BMC has intensified action against those found without masks in public places, and started a crackdown on establishments like marriage halls, hotels and restaurants which are found violating the COVID-19 norms.

The civic body has also filed police complaints against some establishments in the last few days, officials said.

Maharashtra Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal became the seventh minister to be infected by the novel coronavirus this month. In a post on Twitter, Bhujbal said his health is fine. "All citizens should take proper care in the backdrop of COVID-19. Should wear masks and use sanitisers regularly," the NCP leader added.

Earlier this month, Maharashtra ministers Anil Deshmukh, Rajendra Shingne, Jayant Patil, Rajesh Tope, Satej Patil and Bachchu Kadu tested positive for the disease. Last year, over 12 state ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, contracted the viral infection.