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Maha sees 20,740 cases, lowest in 73 days; lockdown to be extended

Maharashtra is set to extend the current lockdown for a fortnight from June 1, even as it reported 20,740 fresh Covid-19 cases on Friday— the lowest in 73 days
By Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 29, 2021 01:17 AM IST

Maharashtra is set to extend the current lockdown for a fortnight from June 1, even as it reported 20,740 fresh Covid-19 cases on Friday— the lowest in 73 days. The curbs, however, would be relaxed in places where the Covid-19 case growth rate or positivity rate has reduced.

The state government, according to health minister Rajesh Tope, will finalise the parameters and issue guidelines soon. Senior government officials said the timings for shops selling non-essential commodities could be relaxed in areas where the cases have reduced.

Currently, under the existing restrictions till 7am of June 1, citizens of the state are disallowed to step out unless they need medical attention, or are working in an essential sector, or want to buy essential commodities. That too within restricted timings — between 7am and 11am.

Tope, who held a review meeting on the Covid-19 situation in Pune on Friday, said the government will decide criteria for unlocking. “It can be positivity rate or growth rate,” he said. “We have decided to extend the lockdown for 15 days, but the guidelines will be issued soon. Wherever the positivity rate is high, there is a challenge of bed availability. In such places, the lockdown will not be relaxed. However, for places where the situation is not bad, guidelines will be issued by June 1… With regards to unlocking of non-essential shops, we are preparing guidelines for them. We will discuss with chief minister and finalise it,” Tope added.

State officials said they are working on relaxing the curbs, including for shops selling non-essential commodities. They added that certain restrictions including travel on suburban trains, inter-district travel, etc will continue to be regulated. Currently, only work force engaged in essential services and those with medical urgency are allowed to use local trains in Mumbai.

Mumbai, meanwhile, recorded under-1,000 fresh cases on Friday. It added 924 new cases, taking its tally to 702,522. Mumbai also added 30 fatalities, pushing death toll to 14,750. Maharashtra on Friday added 424 fatalities, taking the death toll over 93,000, to 93,198. The overall positivity rate in the rate stood at 16.57%, while the daily positivity rate was 7.85%. Mumbai’s daily positivity rate was 3.14% on Friday.

Officials said parameters including weekly growth rate and weekly positivity rate will be considered while giving relaxation in certain areas. “The general idea is to go slow with the unlocking as many districts have high positivity rate. The chief minister does not want to open activities in one go as it would waste the effort to control the spread of coronavirus in the state. As unlocking will be gradual, he wants more people to get at least one shot of the Covid vaccine. Many options are being looked into. Travel of people will continue to be regulated and work from home will continue to be encouraged,” said the official who did not wish to be named.

Dr Rahul Pandit, state Covid task force member and Director-Critical Care, Fortis Hospitals, Mumbai, said, “The overall situation in the state has improved, however, there are some districts that continue to show red flags. So, the unlocking will have to be done accordingly.” He added that the task force cannot recommend unlocking guidelines, but it has conveyed the assessment of the situation by “pointing out the red flags and green zones”.

Meanwhile, Tope said the state government is looking to augment Covid care centres in rural areas after the state’s decision to disallow home quarantine to Covid-positive patients where the dwellings are small. He also said all district collectors and municipal commissioners have been told to carry out tracing and testing in a “scientific manner” as opposed to random testing. He said the latter would ensure low positivity rate on paper, but reality would be different. “Across Maharashtra, the tracking and testing has to be done in a scientific manner. We have conveyed it to district collectors and commissioners. We do not want to test randomly and get a low positivity rate. Therefore, tests of only high-risk and low-risk contacts will be done…

Tope said the department has given “targets” to districts to bring down the home isolation tally to around 30%. He however clarified that it is not 100% mandated, but only in places where isolation is not possible due to small houses. “We have taken decisions on home isolation which has brought down its numbers from 80% to 56%. We are working toward bringing it down to 25%-30%. We want to reduce home isolation and give preference to institutional quarantine. It should especially increase in rural areas because there have been cases of late admissions which have resulted in deaths. People [in CCC] will be treated as per protocol, which will ensure they recover as well as reduce spread in rural areas,” he said.

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