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Covid curbs in Maharashtra: Malls, eateries may reopen at 50% capacity

Mumbai: The demand to allow the general public on suburban local trains has been gaining steam for some weeks now.
By Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 30, 2021 12:48 AM IST
The Maharashtra government is looking at opening up trains for more categories. Besides, it is faced with the practical challenge of checking commuters’ vaccination certificates (HT PHOTO)

Malls, multiplexes and restaurants could soon reopen at 50% capacity in Maharashtra, while shops and establishments will likely get extended hours of operation. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray met senior health department officials and state Covid-19 task force members on Thursday to look at easing relaxations in 25 districts, including Mumbai, where positivity and growth rates are low. A formal order on partial lifting of curbs will be issued in a couple of days, said state health minister Rajesh Tope. The government will hold further discussion with railway authorities on allowing the general public on suburban local trains in Mumbai.

The minister said there was a “positive” discussion on easing curbs. The demand to allow the general public on suburban local trains has been gaining steam for some weeks now.

There has been a demand to at least allow people who have taken both doses of the vaccine. The government is also looking at opening up trains for more categories. Also, it is facing a practical challenge of checking commuters’ vaccination certificates.

“There were varied views with regard to local trains. Some said it should not be allowed as third wave is expected, while others said if trains are shut, then there is crowding in buses. So, our objective that transmission does not increase is being defeated. To allow those who have taken two doses [of vaccines] we will need a mechanism to check certificates. These challenges will be discussed with railway authorities and a decision will be made by the CM,” Tope said.

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Meanwhile, the state on Thursday recorded 7,242 cases and 190 deaths, taking the tally to 6,290,156 and toll to 132,335 respectively. The active cases in the state stood at 78,562. In the last 24 hours, the state tested 190,182 samples and had a positivity rate of 3.8%.

State government officials added that the Covid Task Force members are not keen on opening up trains for people just yet. An official said that, the government should wait till a fortnight and see the trajectory of the Covid-19 infections in and around Mumbai before taking a decision on local trains.

The relaxation are expected to come into effect from August 1, officials said.

Currently, districts in the state have level-three restrictions, which involves tighter curbs with limited operational hours for shops and markets. Shops and bazaars remain shut on the weekends, while malls, theatres and multiplexes are completely closed.

The opening of malls, multiplexes and dine-in restaurants will be subject to condition, including 50% occupancy and the staff/employees have to be fully vaccinated. “As per the earlier restriction [where shops and markets were] shut on the weekends. Now, it will remain open on Saturdays till 4pm. Positive discussions were held to reopen shops, restaurants, cinema halls with 50% capacity and with the employees being fully vaccinated. On the resumption of local trains, there were varied views. We will hold discussion with railway authorities and a decision will be made at the level of the chief minister,” Tope said after the meeting with CM and the task force members.

He further said, “The operational timings of shops, which was till 4pm, will be extended to 8-9pm. Hotels and restaurants will have some restrictions, including capacity and their employees have to be fully vaccinated.”

The state government in its order will also issue guidelines for reopening malls, restaurants, hotels, gymnasiums, places of worship and swimming pools. It will also provide guidelines for wedding, cultural, social and political events. Senior government officials said that there will be a cap on attendees for public gatherings, while use of enclosed halls, air-conditioned auditoriums will be discouraged. “Wedding, social, cultural events can have around 100 people. The CM will give decide in a day or two,” an official said.

Even as 25 districts would get relaxations, 11 districts — Pune, Solapur, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Raigad, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Palghar, Beed and Ahmednagar — will continue to remain in level-three of restrictions. “We are not providing any relaxation in Pune, Solapur, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Raigad, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Palghar, Beed and Ahmednagar. If need be, local administration can decide to tighten the restrictions,” Tope said.

He said that relaxations is necessary as several districts are reporting fresh cases in single digits and level-3 restrictions are detrimental for small business and economy. There has been mounting pressure on the chief minister from the allies and opposition alike to provide relaxations to keep the wheels of economy moving. “There are many districts where daily cases very low. At these districts, level-three restrictions is detrimental for small businesses. We need to strike a balance to move the wheels of economy and take precautions to follow Covid-19 protocol,” the minister said.

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