Sec 144 clamped in Ahmedabad as swine flu gets out of control

The district collector of Ahmedabad on Tuesday invoked section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, to prohibit mass gatherings without prior permission, in order to prevent the spread of swine flu, an official release stated.

While the collector's move was quite unexpected, the measure was needed to contain the spread of deadly swine flu, after the toll from the disease rose to around 50 in Ahmedabad and thousands were infected with the virus, officials said.

With over 230 dead and over 3,500 affected by swine flu in Gujarat, since the start of the year, officials had to resort to harsh measures to prevent people from contacting the disease.

"It has come to our notice that swine flu cases have been on the rise in Gujarat, including Ahmedabad. The virus, which causes swine flu, is contagious and generally infects people by entering through nostrils and mouth mostly at crowded places," the Ahmedabad district collectorate statement said.

Gujarat registered more than 230 swine flu deaths, which include more than 50 fatalities in Ahmedabad, since January this year.

The number of positive cases swine flu recorded in Gujarat stood at 3,527 and the disease has caused the highest number of deaths in Gujarat compared to other states in the country.

However, the collector has exempted people gathering at marriages and death processions from Section 144.

For public events that cannot be called off or postponed, organisers have been asked to take prior permission and also ensure that proper care is taken, like providing masks to all people as well as disposing of these masks after their use, the statement said.

The decision came after Gujarat's junior health minister tested positive for swine flu on Monday, just a day after the state assembly speaker was diagnosed with the virus.

The home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has registered the second-highest death toll from the outbreak after neighbouring Rajasthan.

The disease has taken the lives of more than 833 people across the country and affected nearly 14,000 over the last two months and the authorities have so far failed to contain the pandemic.