Maharashtra government extends lockdown to June 15
Even as Maharashtra’s Covid-19 cases over the past few days have fallen below the peak of the first wave (September 2020), the state government has extended the ongoing lockdown by two more weeks, until 7am on June 15, as 14 of the state’s 36 districts have a high positivity rate (more than 10%). Districts and cities with a positivity rate less than 10% and less than 40% occupancy of oxygen beds will be given certain relaxations, including an extension of timings of essential establishments; operation of non-essential establishments during restricted timings; and increasing the attendance in government offices to 25%. Most cities in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), including Mumbai, will be eligible for these relaxations.
The state has about 14 districts with a positivity rate of more than 10%, including Thane, Raigad, Kolhapur, Osmanabad, among others. Twenty districts have a positivity rate of less than 10%. The state government has also earmarked 10 cities with more than one million population as separate units, so that the high positivity rate of their district does not apply to them.
Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli, Vasai-Virar, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Aurangabad and Nashik are 10 cities, which have been put in a separate pool. This will enable cities like Kalyan-Dombivli, Thane, Vasai-Virar and Panvel to have relaxations, although the positivity rate of the district is high.
The essential establishments, which are currently allowed to open from 7am to 11am, will now be allowed to open till 2pm in these districts and cities, which have relaxations from the lockdown. Similarly, depending on orders by local authorities, the shops and establishments operating in non-essential services may be allowed to operate between 7am and 2pm (only on weekdays). Only stand-alone non essential shops are allowed to operate and not in malls and shopping complexes. The e-commerce activities in cities and districts eligible for relaxations have been allowed to operate. The government offices in these districts and cities are now allowed to operate at 25% of their capacity. Stepping out of home after 3pm has, however, remained curbed except for medical emergencies.
The districts with positivity rates ranging between 10% and 20% will continue to have ongoing curbs. The shops and establishment operating in essential services will be allowed to operate, while stepping out of the house without valid reasons, will continue to be prohibited. Most rural parts of the districts are expected to fall under this category.
The districts with positivity rate of more than 20% or oxygen-bed occupancy of more than 75% will see stricter curbs. The districts will be sealed by not allowing influx or outflow in them. Only Satara and Sindhudurg have more than 20% positivity rate.
“The positivity rate week ending on May 29 will be considered to determine the category for the cities and districts. The health department is expected to clarify on it by tomorrow. The idea of separating the cities with one million population was to make sure that the big cities do not suffer because of the high number of patients in rural parts of the respective districts. By setting the period for the positivity rate we have also weeded out the possibility of fudging in data at the local level to get the relaxation,” said an official from the relief and rehabilitation department.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, in his address to the state on Sunday evening, said the government is compelled to extend the lockdown unwillingly by two weeks as the cases are rising in certain rural areas. He said the districts and cities with less positivity rate will get some relaxations, while the districts and cities with high positivity rate may see stricter curbs.
Thackeray said that the restrictions will be lifted in a graded manner. “The number of cases is still at the level of the peak of cases during the first wave, when there were 24,886 cases on September 11. The number of active cases is just below the peak of active cases during first wave, though the recovery rate is better today than it was at the peak of first wave. We need to tread cautiously, along with the efforts to ramp up health infrastructure in anticipation of the potential third wave,” he said.
Thackeray also appealed to not resort to agitations, demanding for relaxations from the curbs, as that could result in super-spreading events. “I need the cooperation from the people and the political parties. As implemented in three villages in the state, every village, tehsil and district administration should take efforts to make their units Covid-19 free,” he said.
The state government started implementing the curbs from April 5 and went on tightening them by imposing almost complete lockdown in third week of April. The state witnessed its highest number of cases, 68,631, on April 18.