‘Tough Covid-19 curbs Maha need of the hour’
With Covid-19 cases continuing to spike as never before, the Maharashtra government is inching towards a lockdown in a step-by-step manner, with stringent restrictions likely within a day or two.
And if cases are not controlled, then a complete lockdown will be imposed, insiders in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government said on Saturday.
“We are starting with stringent restrictions to control cases as the rise in cases is sharp. But if cases continue to rise with the same speed and if resources start falling short, then we will be left with no option, but to impose lockdown,” Rajesh Tope, state health minister told HT.
Meanwhile, experts, too, said some tough decisions that will not adversely affect the economy needed to be taken by the administration. Putting more curbs on non-essential events like weddings and parties as well as non-essential activities such as morning and evening walks, and introducing staggered timings for offices to reduce peak-hour train and road traffic should be considered immediately, they opined.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has already warned for a lockdown as the cases are rising sharply and there are concerns that the health infrastructure would crumble after a point of time.
On Saturday, the state reached close to the 50,000 mark as 49,447 new cases were reported, which was also the highest in a day and it is likely that the daily cases will cross 50,000 in a day or two, the officials said.
Senior officials said that Thackeray is of the view that the transmission of cases can be arrested only by imposing lockdown. However, consensus among the ruling parties is yet to be made — NCP and Congress are still not in favour of complete lockdown.
On Saturday, the chief minister held various meetings with various sections of society, asking them for their support in the decisions to be taken by the state government as they will be in the interest of all.
He said, “The entire state is going to face losses, but we have to give priority to life over work and thus it is imminent to take certain steps. We cannot ignore the current circumstances and make all the efforts to break the chain of the spread,” the chief minister said in a virtual meeting held with the owners of cinema halls, multiplexes and Marathi theatres.
“We are not of the view to shut down this or that but to overcome the crisis in time we have to make efforts from now onwards,” he added.
Thackeray also discussed the ongoing crisis owing to the pandemic with gym owners, and editors from the media industry on Saturday.
“The chief minister has made up his mind to impose lockdown, but we were not ready for it. However, the situation is going out of hand and some harsh decisions have to be taken. We cannot allow the situation to be continued like this and lockdown will be the only alternative left before us in the coming days,” said a MVA minister, wishing not to be named.
On Friday in his live address on social media platforms, Thackeray warned that the state’s healthcare infrastructure may be overwhelmed in the next two weeks and also appealed to political parties, industrialists and ordinary people to cooperate and obey safety guidelines.
“I am not announcing a lockdown, but definitely warning about it. I am sure we can avoid a lockdown if we decide firmly about it. We will observe for the next couple of days, if people are observing protocol strictly. But in case no such solution is found, I cannot allow the situation to go out of hand,” he said.
Experts, too, believe some tough decisions that will not adversely affect the economy need to be taken by the administration to check the rise in the number of cases in the city and the state. It should include curbing non-essential events like weddings, parties, non-essential activities such as morning and evening walks, and introducing staggered timings for offices to reduce peak-hour train and road traffic.
Dr Rahul Pandit, who is part of the government’s Covid-19 task force said, “No one wants the economy to be hampered again due to a lockdown. But curbs can be put on non-essential activities, such as on morning and evening walkers, and on those who leave homes just for an outing, such as in parks or beaches. This will not affect any businesses, on those dependent on such business for their day-to-day income.” He also stressed on not allowing weddings to any social gatherings in the state.
He further said, “If office timings can be staggered for even those 50% employees who are not working from home right now, then it will reduce load on local public transport. The shift of these employees should be determined at the interval of two hours, so that some employees can start work at 7am, others at 9am. In that case, those asked to start with a delay of two hours will work two hours more at the end of the day. Presently, local public transport gets very crowded during office hours around 9am and 5pm to 7pm.”
Dr Avinash Supe, chairman of the state-appointed death audit committee, stressed on ramping up vaccination in the state, while Dr Pandit said the state must now start vaccinating all above the age of 18.
Meanwhile, leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis criticised Thackeray, saying lockdown cannot be a rule and can be imposed only in exceptional circumstances. Prime Minister Narendra Modi provided food grains and transferred money in the bank accounts of the common people before imposing lockdown. The state should also consider doing all the same before taking such a decision, he said.