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Maha fresh norms expected today?

By Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 31, 2020 01:00 AM IST

The state government is expected to issue its revised lockdown guidelines on Sunday. An official said the government is going to provide further relaxations in a “gradual and calibrated manner”, but coronavirus cases are bound to go up as this happens. The official added that the state government is moving “cautiously” and relaxations would be given on the degree of “contact” and “essential” nature of the service.

Covid-19 hotspot areas such as Mumbai, MMR and Pune are likely to remain under lockdown even as the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday issued guidelines for the phased reopening of activities outside containment zones. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has already indicated that he is not keen to lift curbs in Mumbai, Pune and MMR.

The MHA, in its guidelines, has allowed opening up of religious places/places of worship, hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality services, and shopping malls from June 8. The state government has not decided yet, but is unlikely to allow the opening of malls, among others.

“We are moving with caution. It is known that cases do surge when relaxations are lifted. We have been preparing for it. Besides that, providing relaxations in curbs would depend on the degree of contact among people, how essential is the service that is being allowed. Mode of transport is also a criteria being looked at, while allowing anything,” said a senior official requesting anonymity. Officials said that there could be some relaxations given in Mumbai, MMR and Pune to restart economic activities, including opening of standalone shops.

The state government has already asked the Centre to restart Mumbai suburban train services for essential services providers, including doctors, nurses, healthcare staffers and civic body employees.

“So far no decision has been taken, but a majority of the curbs will remain in place in the red zone. However, deliberations are on to allow the opening of standalone shops, allowing morning walk on a trial basis, but if there is crowding, it would be suspended,” a senior bureaucrat said. The government is also considering if private offices can be allowed to resume operation with less staff. However, without public transport, relaxations could not work.

Besides that, the state government could remove some of the municipal corporations, excluding municipal corporations of Mumbai, Pune, from the red zone category. Dhule, Solapur, Aurangabad, Malegaon, Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur cities are in the red zone.

Depending on the number of cases rising daily, a particular municipal corporation could be put in non-red zone where economic and industrial activities could commence, officials said. “Like it was done earlier, surrounding areas of Pune were not kept in the red zone as the Covid-19 cases were in control. Secondly, several industries are there in the belt, which have been reopened,” he added.

Semi-urban areas and rural areas fall under the non-red zone category, where a chunk of activities has been allowed from May 22. The state government is, however, unlikely to open up inter-district travel as they are seeing a rise in cases in rural areas after travel relaxation from urban areas was provided.

Thackeray has directed district authorities to strengthen healthcare infrastructure across as relaxations would lead to an increase in cases. Mumbai, Thane and Pune have been ramping up capacity of beds. “It is expected that once further relaxation is provided, Covid-19 cases would go up. Our top consideration is to look at the extent and acceleration of the spread in the state. We have already started to strengthen the health infrastructure to tackle the surge,” he said.

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