Health minister: Mask not mandatory in state as of now
Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the state Covid task force, said, “Currently, masking is voluntary. What was strongly recommended was indoor masking and in poorly ventilated and crowded spaces
Mumbai: Even as the Covid-19 cases are marginally increasing in some parts of the state, the Maharashtra government did not decide to make face masks ‘mandatory’ again. The Covid situation in the state was reviewed in the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, where reintroducing the mandate on face masks, which was lifted on April 2, was discussed.
State health minister Rajesh Tope, following the cabinet meeting, said that though the positivity had increased slightly, the situation was under control. He added that the department was keeping a close watch on the Covid figures.
“The cabinet meeting reviewed the Covid situation and took note of the fact that the positivity rate has gone up marginally from 0.3% to 0.7%. There is nothing to worry about at this point. As of now, the masks are not compulsory, there would be no fines. We are monitoring the situation and keeping a watch on the numbers. However, we appeal to the citizens to wear masks,” Tope said.
The government’s move not to make the masks compulsory came even as the state Covid task force and some district collectors had earlier recommended that face masks be made compulsory in enclosed and crowded places.
Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the state Covid task force, said, “Currently, masking is voluntary. What was strongly recommended was indoor masking and in poorly ventilated and crowded spaces. Also, masking should be encouraged as a good health habit. Because of the current prevalence of Omicron, the risk of transmission is in poorly ventilated spaces, closed spaces, and crowded environments.”
A senior health department official said that the enforcement of masking at enclosed places would have been inadequate. “Had we made masks compulsory in enclosed spaces and crowded areas, but keeping it voluntary in other places, it would have been flouted. How does one enforce it? Therefore, it was decided to appeal to citizens to follow Covid appropriate behaviour along with masking,” said a senior health department official, who did not want to be named.
Maharashtra, meanwhile, added 165 new Covid-19 cases, taking the state’s tally to 78,77,429. The state added two deaths, pushing the death toll to 147,840. Mumbai added 90 fresh Covid-19 cases, while no deaths were reported in the city. The state’s active case count rose to 961 from 955 on Wednesday. In the last 24 hours, the state tested 27248 samples and had a positivity rate of 0.6%.
Dr Joshi added that the situation is under control. However, vigilance and better surveillance are required. “Looking at the current situation, we should not panic, but we need to be vigilant. We need to continue surveillance, including genomic. We need to protect the vulnerable and follow Covid appropriate behaviour at all times,” he said.