CNN-IBN: There has been a complete shutdown of schools, malls and theatres in Mumbai for a week. Is that a bit of a panicky measure?
Ashok Chavan: There is no panic. It's only a preventive measure that the state government has initiated. As earlier in Pune also, there was a great increase in the number of cases and there was panic all over. The exact figure here is five people who have passed away. The issue here is of the number of cases who have been treated and discharged - 1,510 people were admitted and 1,343 people were discharged and 167 people were treated for swine flu. I think the recovery is high, the tablets and medicines are available, hospitals are equipped to handle the situation. In Pune we had a take a decision because locals felt that things would be under control if we closed down schools etc for some time. In Mumbai we have got requests from the public departments to shut down schools and malls. All party people said that Mumbai requires a relief of five to seven days. But things can come under control. The whole country of Mexico was shutdown after the swine flu outbreak. I say we can't shut down the whole state of Maharashtra, but where we can give relief to some extent, we are providing relief. We are going according to the wishes of the people and that is why we are shutting down for about seven days.
CNN-IBN: But can you really shut down a city of the size of Mumbai? Lakhs of commuetrs will continue to take trains, BEST buses. The virus will travel even without a shutdown of schools and malls.
Ashok Chavan: The situation does not warrant closing down the entire city. The immediate effect will only happen to students, children and college-goers because that is where the spread is imminent. The shutdown is in compliance with the public representatives and the local people.
CNN-IBN: Sir, you seem to be suggesting that the situation is under control. Don't you think in that sense that a shutdown only adds to panic? If as you are saying the situation is under control and a majority of people are being discharged, then why the need for a shutdown?
Ashok Chavan: I don't think people should panic. I think it's for their comfort level. A five-seven day shutdown will to some extent bring some relief. We have taken the decision because it is a demand from the local people.
CNN-IBN: The WHO guidelines point out that it is only in an extraordinary situation that you need a shutdown of any kind, not in a country like India where we have only reported 17 deaths so far.
Ashok Chavan: We are following the guidelines issued by the WHO and the Government of IndiAshok Chavan: There is no violation of any rule. But there is a feeling that to avoid the spread of this virus to other parts of the state, there should be a shutdown. Let's see if in the initial stages - five to six days shutdown helps. Also August 15 is already a holiday and Sunday too is an off. Then there is the holiday for Govindastav, so it's really just a two-three day shutdown and it won't make a difference.
CNN-IBN: But isn't the real challenge at this stage more testing centres, more private hospitals being roped in for treatment, a stronger information campaign at the moment telling the people not to panic, overcrowd city hospitals and go looking around for the N95 surgical masks?
Ashok Chavan: The Chief Secretary has been briefing the media every evening. At 5 pm everyday, all district collectors and civil surgeons will be updating the media. All the hospitals in the 35 districts have extra 150 beds for taking in new patients. Every district has been alerted to do that. Medicines and masks are available. Private hospitals have also been roped in. I think things are under control. I request the media to see that factual reports are presented and there is no unnecessary panic created.
CNN-IBN: There was a death reported on Wednesday in Nashik. Will you shutdown other parts of the state also or is this shutdown just limited to Mumbai and Pune?
Ashok Chavan: I don't think so. The situation doesn't warrant that at the moment.
CNN-IBN: Political parties, including the Shiv Sena and the NCP have said that they will restrict and cancel dahi handi celebrations during Gokulashtami. Will you consider a similar move for ganesh chaturthi which is an even bigger mass festival?
Ashok Chavan: Things depend on how the circumstances and situations develop. I think till now things are under control. Two days before I had an all-party meeting where everybody joined in and we told them let's not make it an issue of the Shiv Sena or the NCP or the Congress or the MNS. It is a health problem. It is a virus which has to controlled. I don't see it as a political issue.
CNN-IBN: Are you saying you will put public health above religious sentiments when it comes to Ganesh Chaturthi, that you are ready to consider asking for Ganesh celebrations to be restricted this year if necessary.
Ashok Chavan: I will not go in for cheap popularity. I will see what is the requirement, what the situation demands and if required I will call an all party meet and see the issue does not take a political turn.