News Flash – 23 January 2020

National News



It’s Official: Mumbai Open 24×7 from Monday


Mumbai: The state cabinet has approved the ‘Mumbai 24 hours’ policy, allowing malls, multiplexes and shops in non-residential areas and inside gated mill compounds to remain open 24×7 from January 27 onwards. But no such relief has come for bars serving liquor, which will continue to close at 1.30am. The approval came after a presentation on Wednesday by tourism minister Aditya Thackeray, who said later that it is not compulsory to participate and only those establishments willing may keep their premises open at all hours. He said two areas, Nariman Point and BKC, have been shortlisted for food trucks to be allowed to run through the night. “The proposal, first mooted in 2013, has now been cleared. London’s nightlife economy is worth £5 billion and we expect similar growth in Mumbai,” said Thackeray afterwards. “Mumbai is a 24×7 functional city. There are people who work in night shifts. There are tourists, too, in transit. Where do they go if they are hungry after 10pm?”. Thackeray said there are provisions for security, including CCTV cover, at malls and mill compounds and if they need additional police presence, they will have to pay for it. Any violation of laws by any establishment may invite permanent cancellation of licence, he said.



The state government had notified the amended Maharashtra Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Service Condition) Act in 2017, allowing 24×7 operations for establishments, but the police, under powers vested with it, didn’t allow operations beyond 1.30am for law and order reasons. The police will now have to issue a revised circular to comply with the government’s decision. Thackeray said the police will not be under stress because after 1.30am, their job till now was to check if shops and establishments were shut down. “But now they will be able to focus on law and order only,” he said. Over 10 malls and multiplexes in Mumbai and Thane have decided to participate in the scheme on an experimental basis, following which, depending on financial viability, they will decide on whether to stay open 24×7 or operate all day only on weekends. Multiplex Association of India secretary Prakash Chaphalkar said that to begin with, leading multiplexes will arrange an additional cinema screening late in the night. “What’s key is people’s response and profitability on investment on staff and security,” he said. National Restaurants Association trustee Riyaz Amlani said all major food chains operating in malls and multiplexes will start 24X7 operations from midnight, January 26-27.



Bacterial Lepto Trumps Viral H1N1 and Dengue as Killer


Mumbai: Leptospirosis was the biggest killer among seasonal ailments, followed by H1N1 and dengue in 2019. Data compiled by BMC shows bacterial disease leptospirosis claimed eleven lives, while the viral H1N1 and dengue caused five and three deaths. Malaria, a major killer at the beginning of the decade, didn’t cause any fatalities last year. But while leptospirosis caused maximum deaths, it was dengue that was responsible for most hospitalisations—nearly 15,000 in 2019. In comparison, there were around 4,110 hospitalisations due to malaria. Civic officials said deaths due to seasonal ailments have declined by a fifth when compared with five years ago. Overall, there were 20 deaths in 2019 due to all influenza, water and vector borne ailments put together as opposed to 29 in 2018, 50 in 2017, 30 in 2015 and 100 in 2015. An emerging area of concern has been the steady rise in enteric diseases such as hepatitis A and E. Between 2018 and 2019, cases jumped by 34%. A hepatitis death was also reported in 2019 after zero casualties in 2018. Gastroenteritis cases, however, have seen a 3-6% decline every year. BMC’s executive health officer Dr Padmaja Keskar said deaths due to seasonal ailments have been on a decline, though cases have remained steady. “We have been detecting more leptospirosis cases due to better diagnosis. A shift, though, has been the disease’s year-round appearance, unlike four to five years ago, when cases were mostly detected during the monsoon,” she said.



With 4% of infected patients succumbing, leptospirosis also had the highest case fatality rate. Dengue’s case fatality rate, for instance, was less than 0.5%. “From a mortality point of view, it could be leptospirosis, but as for morbidity, defined as the erosion of quality of life, feeling unwell, missing work hours, it is dengue. But it’s possible that 50% or more of dengue admissions could have been treated at home,” said physician Dr Hemant Thacker. “The fear of dengue brings more patients to hospitals than the actual intensity of the illness. We are hoping that dengue will go the malaria way”. Experts feel public awareness needs to be increased around hygiene and sanitation if enteric diseases need to be curbed. Concurring, Dr Keskar said several tests have shown that the city’s tap water is among the cleanest. “But we have people eating uncovered food or not maintaining hygiene practices, which contribute to hepatitis cases,” she said. Last year, Kurla witnessed one of the worst hepatitis outbreaks due to pipeline leakages. Dr Nivedita Moulick, former head of medicine at Sion Hospital, said the city’s public health system must be credited for keeping leptospirosis cases under control. “It’s dengue and its varied presentations that remain a challenge. Also, respiratory ailments are growing by the day,” she said.



1 Killed, 3 Hurt in Blast at MIDC Chemical Plant

The explosion at the Badlapur chemical plant comes around 10 days after a blast in Tarapur killed eight and injured seven. Three staffers who were injured in the Badlapur blast have been admitted to National Burns Centre, Airoli.



Badlapur: A 60-year-old staffer died and three were injured when the dryer of a chemical plant exploded in Badlapur MIDC on Wednesday morning. The fire brigade controlled the fire which followed the explosion within 30 minutes. This is the second such industrial mishap in the Mumbai region this month. A blast had claimed eight lives and injured seven at ANK Pharma in Tarapur MIDC on January 11 and nine employees had suffered burn injuries in a fire at Omkar Speciality Chemicals on November 26, 2019. A fire brigade official said Wednesday’s explosion was so powerful that parts of the dryer fell a long distance away and Kajay Remedies Pvt. Ltd. plant wall collapsed at 9am. Vishnu Damdere, who was near the dryer, died on the spot, while Vijay Pingava (40), Dagdu Mahato (40 and Santosh Jadhav (37) suffered 40-60 percent burn injuries. The three injured have been admitted to National Burns Centre, Airoli. Other staff had a narrow escape. Damdere, a resident of Ambernath, is survived by his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Bhagwat Sonone, chief fire officer of Badlapur fire brigade, said, “A primary probe shows that due to high pressure in the dryer, it exploded, which led to a fire.” Badlapur police has registered an accidental death report and a probe is on to see if negligence caused the mishap, for which they are taking the help of the factory inspector. The company manufactures and exports chemical products. There are many chemical companies in Badlapur, and fires have broken out in them in the past.



Though there are four regulatory authorities special planning authority under MIDC, labour department, MIDC fire department and directorate of industrial safety and health (DISH) to enforce guidelines related to industrial safety and labour norms, violations are rampant. Of the over five lakh industrial units in the state, only 38,000 are registered under the Industrial Act 1948, said a senior official from the labour department. As per the 2015 amendment to the Act, under the ‘ease of doing business’, industrial units employing less than 20 staffers do not have to be registered with the labour department, which leaves many establishments out of its purview. State officials pointed out that there’s a staff crunch in labour department’s inspection unit. “There are only a handful of industrial inspectors in the state; it is practically not possible for them to inspect each industry in their jurisdiction once a year,” said an official. In the case of ANK Pharma Pvt Ltd, which was to start making bulk drugs within a few months, its promoters were testing an autoclave device meant for sterilising equipment, without requisite licences, said sources. Families of workers living on the first floor of the three-story industrial unit, were hurt in the blast. Among the deceased were five members of these two families. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had ordered an inquiry into the Tarapur blast and ordered chemical units across the state to be audited for fire safety and other norms. “We have been told to submit a detailed report on violations, based on which action will be taken against offenders,” an official had said. With inputs from Bhavika Jain and Sandhya Nair.



International News



China Virus Deaths Rise to 17

Health officials screen passengers from Wuhan at Beijing airport.



Beijing/Shanghai: Deaths from China’s new flu-like virus rose to 17 on Wednesday with more than 540 cases confirmed, increasing fears of contagion from an infection suspected to originate from illegally traded wildlife. The previously unknown coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged from an animal market in central city of Wuhan, with cases now detected as far away as the United States. Contrasting with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China’s communist government has this time given regular updates to try to avoid panic as millions travel for the Lunar New Year. “The rise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading,” National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin said. The WHO was meeting in a high-tech room at its Geneva headquarters to decide whether the outbreak is a global health emergency. Many Chinese were cancelling trips, buying face masks, avoiding public places such as cinemas and shopping centres, and even turning to an online plague simulation game or watching disaster movie “The Flu” as a way to cope. The virus has spread from Wuhan to population centres including Beijing, Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong. The latest death toll in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, rose from nine to 17 by midday on Wednesday, state television quoted the provincial government as saying. The official China Daily newspaper said 544 cases had now been confirmed in the country. Thailand has confirmed four cases, while the US, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have each reported one. US President Donald Trump said US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a good containment plan. “We think it is going to be handled very well,” he said at Davos in Switzerland.



Li said the virus, which can cause pneumonia and has no effective vaccine, was being spread via breathing. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. Fears of a pandemic initially spooked markets but they regained their footing on Wednesday. But companies across China, from Foxconn to Huawei Technologies and HSBC Holdings, warned staff to avoid Wuhan and handed out masks. Terry Gou, founder of Apple supplier Foxconn, said he was advising employees not to visit China. Automaker General Motors Co, which operates a plant in Wuhan in a joint venture with China’s SAIC Motor, placed a temporary restriction on employees’ travel to Wuhan. The chief executive of one of the world’s largest aircraft lessors, Aercap, said he expected the virus to impact Chinese airlines’ profitability in the first quarter. Chinese officials believe wildlife trafficked at a Wuhan market was the source of the virus. Two sources said provincial and city officials in Wuhan had been told to remain in the city, and those who have left were told to report their whereabouts. Airports globally stepped up screening from China. Russia strengthened its sanitary and quarantine controls, Britain said it was starting enhanced monitoring of passengers from Wuhan, and Singapore started screening all passengers from China. Italy created a task force to monitor the possible spread of the virus. The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau confirmed its first case of pneumonia linked to the coronavirus and tightened body-temperature screening measures. A first case emerged in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, media reported, with the patient arriving via railway from the mainland. A man who fell ill in Mexico on Monday following a trip to Wuhan is under observation as a potential case of the coronavirus.

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