Maharashtra extends lockdown till January 31; 57 UK returnees test positive
The Maharashtra government on Wednesday extended the ongoing lockdown imposed in view of the Covid-19 pandemic till January 31.
The state recorded 3,537 new cases, pushing the count to 1,928,603, while the toll reached 49,463 with 70 new casualties.
As of Wednesday, 57 United Kingdom (UK) returnees tested positive for Covid-19, however, it is yet to be confirmed if any of them carry the new, more transmissible strain of Covid-19.
Maharashtra chief secretary Sanjay Kumar issued the notification extending the lockdown by a month.
Although almost all restrictions imposed in the state under lockdown, which began from the third week of March this year, have been lifted, curbs on the reopening of private and government offices, swimming pools, and interstate activities are still in place. Local trains in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) are yet to begin operations for all commuters.
The state government is yet to allow schools and colleges to reopen, while the ban on social, religious and political congregations continues with the extension.
Maharashtra has been witnessing fewer than 5,000 Covid-19 cases for the past 26 consecutive days. During December 1-30, the state reported 117,155 cases, as against 139,425 and 286,566 reported in November and October in the corresponding period.
“4,474 UK returnees who had landed between November 15 and December 23 have been traced till date. RT-PCR tests have been conducted on 2,917 of them to find 57 positive sample. Of them, 23 are from Mumbai, Pune (11), Thane (7), Nagpur (6) , 2 each from Nashik, Aurangabad, Raigad, Buldhana and one each from Nanded and Washim,” said state surveillance office Dr Pradip Awate.
He said that 52 samples have been referred to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune to ascertain if they are infected with the new variant. The state has also traced 356 people who have come in contact with the UK returnees and 13 of them have tested positive for Covid-19, he added.
State health minister Rajesh Tope said tracing international passengers coming from the specified countries was a challenge before the machinery. “Our department is writing to the police to trace such passengers who have given wrong addresses or not traceable. The exercise has been undertaken in public interest and all returnees will be traced for their swabs at any cost,” he said.
Tope said of the positive reports of the international passenger, no one has found with the new variant.
Health experts have cautioned people to be cautious against the backdrop of the emergence of new variant. Dr Sanjay Pattiwar, a public health expert said, “Though the new variant is yet to make its entry in the state, mutants of coronavirus will keep coming and eventually it will turn into another influenza-like disease. Whatever reports about the new variant are coming are observational and not based on proper studies. Here, it will take a month to prove its virulence.”
He said that the situation in the state is looking similar to what has happened before Diwali. “People are venturing out in big numbers to celebrate the New Year. The government has sensitised everyone and now it is the responsibility of each and every individual to save themselves and save others as well by bringing back self-discipline and following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. If we don’t follow the rules, the situation may change once again,” Dr Pattiwar said.
Mumbai has clocked 714 cases on Wednesday, taking the count to 292,722. Of them, active cases are 9,049. There were 13 deaths reported and the toll in the city has reached 11,107.
The government had imposed a seven-hour night curfew from December 22 till January 5 and urged citizens to stay at home while welcoming the new year on December 31. It has also advised people to avoid crowding in public places, especially on seashores, in gardens and on roads.
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- Patil told Hindustan Times, "The regulations curtail freedom of expression."