Mumbai closes schools over H1N1

Officials in India's financial hub order weeklong shutdown to halt spread of virus.

    Mumbai is the second city in Maharashtra to close its schools in response to the HINI outbreak [AFP]

    "We have seen a rise in cases of swine flu cases in the state. We need to take care, hence these precautionary measures."

    All cinemas and theatres would also close for three days, Wandile said.

    Mumbai is the second city in Maharashtra, after neighbouring Pune, to go against central government advice and close its schools.

    'Fatal diseases'

    Al Jazeera's Prerna Suri, reporting from New Delhi, said that despite official calls for calm, the central government had stepped up its efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

    "The government has really pulled up its socks on this one. The federal government has allowed privately owned hospital to treat swine flu cases as the government hospitals were unable to cope with this increase demand," she said.

    "It [H1N1] is not the only virus we have in our country. We have much more fatal diseases, much more costly diseases"

    Ghulam Nabi Azad,
    India's Health Minister

    "The federal government has also decided to purchase an additional 20 million doses of the anit-viral drug Tamiflu to treat the outbreak, and all airlines have been asked to strictly comply with steps that are necessary for health screening of passengers arriving at Indian airports."

    Earlier in the week, Ghulam Nabi Azad, India's health minister, stressed that the outbreak of the H1N1 virus should be put in the context of other health risks in India.

    "It is not the only virus we have in our country. We have much more fatal diseases, much more costly diseases," he said.

    Public concern in India about the spread of the H1N1 virus has mounted since the country's first death from the disease on August 3.

    Figures updated

    As of Wednesday, 15 people infected by the virus had died, while more than 1,000 people had tested positive, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

    But the health ministry put the death toll at nine, saying it updated its figures every evening.

    With most confirmed cases so far among people who have returned from overseas, tens of thousands of travellers arriving at India's international airports from affected countries have been screened.

    A 24-hour helpline and website have been set up, while public hospitals have been given responsibility for testing and isolating suspected cases.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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