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Mumbai: With two more confirmed cases on Sunday, Maharashtra continued to report the highest number of Covid 19 infections in the country with the total number the number of coronavirus positive cases shooting to 33.

A 59-year-old woman tested positive for the virus in Aurangabad on Sunday, adding to five new cases detected in Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune district late on Saturday night. A 31-year-old man from Pune who travelled recently to Dubai and Japan also tested positive late on Sunday.

To grapple with the unprecedented situation, the state government renewed its appeal for further co-operation from members of public while announcing a slew of measures to contain the spread to new cases. "We want to tell the public that these measures are being taken for their own health and safety. We appeal for your cooperation. Social distancing must be maintained (to reduce infections). We request you to maintain respiratory etiquette and personal hygiene, especially with regard to hand washing," said Rajesh Tope, state health minister, Maharashtra addressing a press conference in Mumbai on Sunday.

Maharanstra has already invoked the Epidemics Disease Act, 1897, which gives state collectors and commissioners to establish testing and quarantine in private hospitals if required. No public gatherings will be allowed and the government can compulsorily quarantine patients. The government will act against anybody found to be spreading misinformation regarding Covid-19.

On the infrastructure front, the government said there are currently 400 beds in Mumbai’s Seven Hills hospital for quarantine facilities for suspected cases which will be increased to 1,000 beds soon. Kasturba Gandhi hospital in Central Mumbai, which has been earmarked to treat confirmed cases will add 100 tests a day at full capacity, which will be increased by 250 by Wednesday, Tope said.

The state has also ordered for more machines and testing kits to expand this facility into JJ Hospital and Haffkine Hospital in Mumbai and BJ Medical College in Pune within 15-20 days. Testing is also being done at National Institute of Virology, Pune and Govt Medical College, Nagpur (besides Kasturba). KEM hospital will also have a mechanism in place to conduct 250 tests per day. If needed later, this can also be expanded into medical colleges in Aurangabad, Solapur, Dhule and other large districts.

Of 33 patients infected, 18 have come from outside the state, Tope said. Nine of these are in Pimpri-Chinchwad, seven in Pune, five in Mumbai, four in Nagpur, two in Yavatmal and one each in Raigad, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, Aurangabad and Ahmednagar.

Tope said all 32 confirmed cases are stable and not critical. So far over 1.8 lakh people have been screened so far at the airport and 758 kept in isolation, of which 669 have now tested negative. Test results awaited for 75 more who are suspected.

The minister informed that police have been asked to impose Section 144 to prevent large public gatherings, if needed. Also, popular pilgrimage destinations such as the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi in Ahmednagar have been asked to maintain vigil. Police have also been stationed at quarantine facilities to prevent patients from escaping.

On Friday, Maharashtra government issued orders for closure of all schools, colleges, malls, swimming pools, gym and fitness centers, public places, cancellation of all public events, religious processions, etc., till 31 March as a precaution.

The Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay has also suspended all classroom and laboratory instructions till 29 March besides imposing other stringent rules for its students, hostellers, faculty, staff, visitors, etc.

Meanwhile, many global companies across sectors have been testing work from home option by rotation with at least 30-50% staff working from home at a given time. One global banking firm's IT base in Pune has been load testing since last week to check if the entire workforce can login remotely at the same time. This is one of the concerns that has prevented many IT majors from directing a blanket work from home. Consultancies across law and advertising firms in Mumbai have shifted largely to work from home option.

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