Covid-19: Maharashtra may see a few relaxations soon

Although experts have advised against blanket relaxations, the state may consider easing a few curbs in districts with low test positivity rate (TPR) and high vaccination cover.
Another officer said that the state government is under tremendous pressure from the people for relaxations, and opening up of trains for public.(HT file photo)
Another officer said that the state government is under tremendous pressure from the people for relaxations, and opening up of trains for public.(HT file photo)
Updated on Jul 10, 2021 09:36 AM IST
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By, Mumbai

Amid stabilisation of the daily caseload and pressure from citizens for more relaxations, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray is expected to review the Covid-19 situation in the next few days. Although experts have advised against blanket relaxations, the state may consider easing a few curbs in districts with low test positivity rate (TPR) and high vaccination cover.

Thackeray on Friday chaired a meeting of the state disaster management authority (SDMA), which was attended by top government officials and experts from the state’s Covid task force.

While a decision on relaxation of ongoing curbs was not taken in the meeting, the CM informed officials they will consider them after the review meeting with the task force.

Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the task force, said the government could think of the relaxations in a graded manner from July 15. “The relaxations could be on a case-by-case basis and in phases. The districts with TPR below 5% for consecutive two weeks, vaccine cover of more than 70% may get relaxations. We have a long way to achieve 70% vaccination, the mandatory public health yardstick,” said Dr Joshi.

“We are considering doing away with the tests for fully vaccinated domestic fliers. Apart from it, a few more relaxations are likely to be considered in operation of shops and commercial establishments. The task force members are still against opening up of the trains for general public and any relaxation in commuting is unlikely at least for a few more weeks,” said an official from the relief and rehabilitation department.

Dr Joshi, however, has a word of caution on opening up of local trains in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). “Till then, we could adhere to rapid, spot testing and mass screening to enable calibrated relaxations. People will have to strictly follow the restrictions of Covid-appropriate behaviour, so the second wave does not lead into the third wave,” said Dr Joshi.

“Rather than easing curbs in haste, it is better to be on the cautious side, otherwise it could land us in the third wave early. We should not repeat the mistake we committed between the first and second wave. The opening up of trains led to initiation of the second wave which hit Mumbai in the second week of March, six weeks after the decision of allowing general people from first week of February. It was the time gap required for the spread of the virus. The opening up of trains has direct correlation with the wave and thus we have to be very careful while allowing activities,” said Dr Joshi.

Another officer said that the state government is under tremendous pressure from the people for relaxations, and opening up of trains for public. “The genome sequencing of Delta-plus strain has proved that it is not highly transmissible than the other variants. Except for eight districts, other parts of the state have not been witnessing high number of cases. In such districts, there is no point continuing with the curbs,” he said, requesting anonymity.

The districts – Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Sangli, Satara, Raigad, Palghar, Kolhapur, Rural Pune – have been reporting high TPR of more than 5% causing a concern for the state administration. The administration is more concerned about Kolhapur as despite 65% of the vaccination the district is witnessing high positivity rate. The local administration has been directed to increase testing, contact tracing and aggressively monitoring micro containment policy.

The CM has expressed his concern over people being infected even after getting fully vaccinated and has asked the administration to check with the Centre if the booster of an additional dose would work in such cases.

Dr Suhas Joshi, who heads state-appointed the task force of paediatrics surgeons, has suggested the government come up with standard operating procedures for schools before their opening. He suggested the government, which has announced opening up schools for above Class 8 in the districts with fewer cases, to go on cautiously.

Meanwhile, higher and technical education minister Uday Samant said the colleges would not open at least for a month. “Opening up of colleges will lead to students crowding at one place which could lead to the spread among them. They could further infect their parents and people around leading to the early third wave. We have not made any arrangement to open colleges at least for a month,” he said.

The State Election Commission too announced to put the local body bye-elections in five districts on hold in the wake of the high case of Covid-19. The bypolls were slated on July 19.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Surendra P Gangan is Senior Assistant Editor with political bureau of Hindustan Times’ Mumbai Edition. He covers state politics and Maharashtra government’s administrative stories. Reports on the developments in finances, agriculture, social sectors among others.

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Saturday, January 29, 2022