Maharashtra Covid task force gives nod to reopen malls, eateries
The Maharashtra Covid task force, in its discussion with chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, has given its go-ahead to reopen malls and extend the timings for eateries and restaurants. The task force is preparing a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the state to allow reopening of malls and extend timings of eateries and restaurants beyond the current deadline of 4pm. However, the final call will be taken by the CM.
Ministers and senior officials said the chief minister could take a decision on further relaxation of curbs after Independence Day. They added that opening up all activities in one go will not be “prudent”, and therefore, the CM is moving cautiously. Thackeray on Sunday announced that those who have taken two doses of vaccines will be able to travel in suburban local trains from August 15.
Maharashtra, meanwhile, added 5,609 fresh Covid cases on Tuesday, taking the tally to 6,363,442. It added 137 fatalities, pushing the toll to 134,201. The active case count in the state stood at 66,123. Mumbai added 239 fresh Covid-19 cases and five fatalities, taking its total to 737,954 and toll to 15,959, respectively. Active cases in Mumbai stood at 4,501. In the past 24 hours, the state tested 179,402 samples, and had a positivity rate of 3.12%.
“The SOP to reopen malls and allow restaurants and eateries to operate till 10pm is being prepared. The task force opined that mall employees, workers in the shops have to be double vaccinated. A mechanism on who will be allowed inside malls is being worked out. The chief minister will take a call once the SOP is submitted,” the official said, requesting anonymity. Task force chief Dr Sanjay Oak refused to comment on the development.
State minister and guardian minister of Mumbai city Aslam Shaikh said representatives from restaurants industry want timings increased till 10pm. “The government is still deliberating on their demands. The government must be given time to reopen everything. Things will be streamlined in a week... Restaurants will be allowed more time to operate at an appropriate time,” Shaikh said.
The task force, according to another state official, has cautioned the state on reopening of religious places and pushing back reopening of secondary schools in urban areas till Diwali at least. State health minister Rajesh Tope said the CM will decide on further restrictions soon. “We must wait and watch for a few days...the CM will decide soon. Currently, restaurants are operating at 50% capacity. With regards to temples [places of worship], public functions, weddings etc, we think we must wait more. If we hastily open up things it can lead to more transmission,” Tope said.
Mumbai and the cities and towns in Mumbai Metropolitan Region collectively added 707 new cases and reported 19 deaths. A chunk of infections on Tuesday were reported from Ahmednagar, Pune, Solapur, Satara, Kolhapur, Sangli Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts. Collectively, the eight districts and urban (municipal corporation) areas added 4,326 fresh cases and 97 fatalities. These areas contributed 77.12% of the total cases and 70.8% of the fatalities reported on Tuesday.
Sherry Bhatia, President, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), in a statement, said, “We would like to thank the State Task Force headed by Dr Sanjay Oak for recommending the easing of restrictions on restaurants. In our last week’s meeting, the Hon’ble Chief Minister had assured the industry that he would personally discuss the subject with the State COVID Task Force and arrive at a decision soon. This is a big relief for hotels and restaurants across Mumbai.”