Coronavirus Outbreak: Thousands stopped from fleeing city; Mumbai, Navi Mumbai cops seal off exits

Updated: 24 March, 2020 07:40 IST | Anurag Kamble, Samiullah Khan | Mumbai

The Maharashtra government had on Sunday extended curfew till 5 am on Monday, having already imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, restricting assembly and movement.

Heavy traffic jam at Mulund Check Naka on Monday morning. Pic/Sameer Markande
Heavy traffic jam at Mulund Check Naka on Monday morning. Pic/Sameer Markande

As thousands tried to flee the city on Monday morning, police in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai blocked the city's exit points and forced people back to their homes.

The Maharashtra government had on Sunday extended curfew till 5 am on Monday, having already imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, restricting assembly and movement.

But starting early on Monday morning, police started noticing a rush of private and tourist vehicles exiting the city at the Borivli, Mulund and Kharghar toll gates. They said citizens worried about a community spread of Coronavirus were trying to leave the city.

"Many vehicles were on the road," said a Mumbai police officer. "Residents had packed their bags and were attempting to leave the city. After observing the pattern, we decided to intervene."

As Mumbai police barricaded the exits along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway and at Mulund, Navi Mumbai police blocked the exits to the Expressway, the old Mumbai-Pune highway and the Shil Phata Road.

Motorists trying to exit the city via other routes were also intercepted at Mira Road by the Kashimira police.

"We set up a nakabandi in front of the police station and checked every vehicle. We also set up check points near Fountain Hotel before Versova Bridge and at Dahisar.

Hundreds of vehicles were stopped from leaving and redirected back as none of them had a valid reason to be out when restrictions are in place. People don't seem to be taking the curfew serously," said Senior Inspector Sanjay Hazare from Kashimira police.

The Navi Mumbai police said they stopped more than four thousand vehicles from leaving the city. The drive continued from 10 am till late evening.

"Our officers from Kalamboli, Taloja, Khandeshwar and Panvel police stations had hit the streets and were questioning motorists for their reason for travel," said Ashok Dude, DCP (Zone 2), Navi Mumbai police. "all vehicles, except those carrying essential goods or persons involved in essential and emergency services, were redirected towards the city."

Mulund Police had also blocked the toll plaza after noticing a spurt in traffic leaving the city. "We verified each and every vehicle. Once word spread about the verification, the number of vehicles trying to exit the city drastically reduced," said Ravi Sardesai, senior inspector, Mulund police.

Cops to track those in home quarantine

At a time when people who are supposed to undergo a 14-day home quarantine are being stamped on their hands to ensure they follow the rules, the Mumbai police have formed 13 teams to keep tabs on 402 suspects. Each team from the 13 zones of the city has 20-25 members. According to the police, the list of names of these 402 people has been sent to every police station. The cops are constantly patrolling the areas around their homes and are ensuring they don't venture out.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone 9, Paramjit Singh Dahiya, told mid-day, "We are keeping an eye on those under home quarantine as per the BMC list shared with us." Another DCP of Zone 11, Mohan Kumar Dahikar said, "We are following the guidelines given to us." Another officer said, "The cops are patrolling the areas in plain clothes. We are constantly checking whether these people are meeting others."

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First Published: 24 March, 2020 05:29 IST

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