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Shiv Sena, BJP confirm alliance for Lok Sabha And Assembly polls




Ending weeks of speculation, the ruling NDA constituents – Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – finally sealed an alliance for the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections.

BJP President Amit Shah and Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, along with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi and other senior leaders from both sides made the announcement at a joint media briefing late this evening.

“We have been together for over 25 years because of our shared ideologies and spirit of nationalism. In 2014 elections, owing to certain reasons we had split, but later since the past nearly five years we are in alliance in Maharashtra and at the Centre,” Fadnavis said.

Now, the partnership will continue for the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly and others elections on a wide-ranging basis, he added.


From July 8, Maharashtra hotels, lodges can welcome limited guests



Nearly four months after the lockdown, the Maharashtra government on Monday permitted all hotels, lodges, guest-houses, resorts, and others providing accommodation services to welcome guests again from Wednesday, but operating at only 33 per cent capacity.

While malls have not been allowed to restart since some are being used partially (33 per cent) as quarantine centres, the government has permitted the local authorities to utilise even the balance (67 per cent) for isolation purposes if required.

The development came a day after top representatives of the hotel industry called on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and discussed ways and means to restart the crucial sector which contributed 10 per cent to the national GDP and accounts for 12.50 per cent of the employment in the country.

#MissionBeginAgain Phase V will start from July 8 (Wednesday) outside specified Covid-19 containment zones all over the state, including all municipal jurisdictions of Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune Metropolitan Region, and Solapur, Aurangabad, Nashik, Malegaon, Dhule, Jalgaon, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur.

Incidentally, a majority of these like Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik, Jalgaon, Akola have reported the highest number of Covid deaths and cases.

Hotels will now be required to maintain physical distancing among staff/guests with markings for queues and suitably configure seating arrangements, restrict the number of people in elevators with compulsory thermal screening at entrances to restrict the entry of any symptomatic persons.

Reception spaces must have a glass shield, sanitisers to be made freely available all over the hotel, the management must implement ‘contact-less’ procedures like QR codes, online forms, digital payments, etc for check-in/check-out, placing orders, etc.

Air conditioning will have to be maintained at 24-30 degrees with 40-70 per cent humidity range with adequate cross-ventilation and maximum fresh air intake.

For all those asymptomatic guests permitted, wearing of face mask is compulsory always within the hotel premises, along with installation of Aarogya Setu app, full details of their travel history, medical condition, and minimise use of housekeeping services.

For eating on the premises, the government has stipulated e-menus, disposable paper napkins, encourage room-service or takeaways instead of dine-in, with seating arrangements configured to ensure physical distancing.

While swimming pools, gyms, gaming arcades, children’s areas will remain closed, meeting halls with 33 per cent capacity or maximum 15 persons shall be allowed.

The government has also mandated other strict measures for cleaning, sanitisation and disinfecting the hotel premises and rooms, and the protocols to be followed in case a guest falls ill or any suspect/confirmed Covid-19 case is located on the premises.

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BMC begins to withdraw after 90-day corona war in Dharavi



After what is billed as a major triumph in the 90-day war against the novel coronavirus in Dharavi, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has slowly started a cautious retreat from Asia’s biggest slum which reported its first Covid-19 case-cum-death on April 1.

“We have closed two isolation facilities in Dharavi as cases have significantly reduced there and we don’t want to waste resources. Of the total 3,800-beds capacity in eight quarantine centres, we have reduced the numbers by 1,000 to touch around 2,800 beds,” G/North Assistant Municipal Commissioner Kiran Dighavkar told IANS.

These include 700 beds put up at the sprawling Dharavi Municipal School and 300 beds at the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex that falls in BMC’s G/North Ward, he said.

In fact, Dighavkar, said the BMC’s 200-bed ICU hospital in Dharavi is occupied by only 78 patients at present and the area has “ample quarantine and treatment facilities” available anytime for the remaining 23 per cent active cases, with few new ones coming up daily.

The heartening developments come after Mayor Kishori Pednekar told IANS on June 21: “The Dharavi ‘tension’ is off our heads now. We have worked really hard to bring it to this level and it has given excellent results with the local peoples’ full support.”

Simultaneously, the never-say-die people of this once ‘red-hotspot of the pandemic’ – which made headlines in the global media – are now quietly hugging the ‘New Normal’, despite the same congestion, overcrowded living and working quarters, serpentine queues at public toilets, narrow bylanes, stench and squalor plus the monsoon madness etc.

After the initial days of airily dismissing the pandemic, a sense of seriousness and responsibility is evident among the locals after they witnessed 2,300-plus cases and 82 deaths, pointed out Dharavi businessman Salim Memon.

“That was because it was impossible to maintain physical distance, isolation etc, due to the sheer numbers – more than 800,000 people crammed in barely 2.25 sq km. Now, nearly 50 per cent of the migrants have left, affording Dharavi some much-needed breathing space,” Dharavi Rehabilitation Committee President Raju Korde told IANS.

However, he says, it is time to wage the next level of war for redevelopment of Dharavi, which has been pending for 16 years.

“The government ordered the Integrated Township Project for Dharavi on February 4, 2004, but even after 16 years, and half a dozen governments, the project has not moved an inch. On July 20, we shall take out a ‘morcha’ in support of this demand,” Korde said.

Cheered by Dharavi’s success, Municipal Commissioner I.S. Chahal has sought to replicate the ‘Dharavi Model’ in public-private-partnership mode in other new hotspots like Dahisar, Borivali, Kandivali, Malad, Mulund and Bhandup in Mumbai’s northern suburbs.

As BMC top brass said, instead of waiting for patients to approach them, the civic body switched to the ‘Chase the Virus’ mode with the concept of 4 Ts – Tracing, Tracking, Testing and Treating – to finally curb corona spread in Dharavi.

Besides the corona warriors among health personnel, even the police, CRPF, civic staff, some NGOs and other social activists played a role in loosening Covid-19’s stranglehold on Dharavi.

Korde says that the people have fully cooperated with the authorities during the pandemic and “it’s now their turn to get a better life through redevelopment”.

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No Covid community infection in Maharashtra, says Health Minister



Rajesh Tope.

Warning hospitals fleecing patients of stringent action, Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday asserted that despite the growing numbers, “there is no community transmission” of Covid-19 in Maharashtra.

“A majority of the cases being reported are of those who are in quarantine, at home or in institutions, or those with some kind of contact history… So, as of now, there’s no community infection in the state,” Tope told media persons.

He said that the health authorities have succeeded in tracing out almost every Covid-19 infectee and zeroed in or their source of infection, as he ruled out any “community transmission”.

The worst-hit in the country, Maharashtra currently has 180,298 patients and a death toll of 8,053, while 93,154 have been fully cured and discharged by hospitals.

Tope also said that the plasma therapy treatment option is proving to be effective with nearly 90 percent success, while critical medicines like Favipiravir and Remdesivir shall be made available in districts also.

Referring to unending complaints of overcharging, the Maharashtra government has made CCTV mandatory in all Covid-19 wards of hospitals, the minister said.

“The government has specified the cost of treatment in all such cases and hospitals must adhere to it or face stringent action. If patients have grievances, they can come forward and complain to us. We shall be announcing a special helpline number for this also,” Tope said.

Besides, he said family members or relatives outside the hospital shall be able to communicate with the patients inside the wards.

Referring to widespread fleecing of patients by ambulances, the minister said that the rates for this medical service will be declared by the Municipal Commissioners and District Collectors.

“In case of over-charging by hospitals or the ambulances, patients can bring it to our notice and we shall take action,” Tope assured.

He once again appealed to people not to suppress any of their symptoms and come forward for treatment in everybody’s interest.

The minister’s statements are considered significant as patients’ complaints of exorbitant billing by many private hospitals, ambulance operators, emanate daily on social media from Mumbai and other parts of the state.

Besides overcharging, there are also complaints of inordinate delays by ambulance operators which resulted in at least one death of a patient sitting on the road awaiting an ambulance in Pune, as highlighted by IANS on May 16.

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