Maharashtra in safe zone compared to other states for Covid-19, says state health minister
The state government on Tuesday said Maharashtra was in a “safe zone” compared to other states for Covid-19 cases, even as talks of a potential lockdown and stricter curbs have gained ground over the past week.
State health minister Rajesh Tope said there has been no decision taken on imposing another lockdown and the number of cases in Maharashtra has reduced over the past few weeks compared to other states. “The growth rate of cases and number of infections in state have reduced in comparison to Delhi, Goa and Kerala over the past few weeks. Our growth rate is 0.2% against the national rate of 0.4%,” said Tope.
“Daily testing during Diwali did drop to 25,000 from 90,000, but we have again increased it over the past few days. As a result, cases have increased a bit. Honourable Prime Minister has asked us to increase per million testing rate, and to do that, we have, for the first time, given targets to district collectors,” said the minister.
The state’s per million testing rate is 74,207, with only six districts above the state average. While Mumbai and Pune test 1.31 lakh a million and Nagpur tests 1.25 lakh a million (as on November 19), Parbhani, Dhule, Hingoli, Buldhana and Nandurbar test less than 30,000 samples per million of population.
After reporting an average of 4,200 cases daily in the first 17 days of November, Maharashtra reported more than 5,000 daily cases for five consecutive days till Sunday, before the number slightly dipped on Monday owing to reduced testing over the weekend. The trend continued on Tuesday as the state recorded 5,439 new cases, taking its tally to 1,789,800.
Maharashtra on Tuesday reported 30 deaths, the same as on Monday, the lowest fatalities since May 3, pushing up the state’s death toll to 46,683. Officials from the health department, however, said deaths have been low for past two days as many districts have failed to update their records for fatalities.
Mumbai, meanwhile, reported 939 new Covid-19 infections and 19 deaths, taking the city’s tally to 277,453 and toll to 10,708.
Significantly, a state appointed task force of health experts has warned of a spike in Covid-19 cases in December-January. “Although there are differences, a majority of the 11-member task force of doctors feel another peak of cases would be between December 25 and January 26. They fear the period may see more cases than during the peak in the first two weeks of September, when the daily caseload was more than 20,000. We have asked district authorities to ramp up health infrastructure to manage 10% more cases than their highest active cases reported during the September peak,” said a senior health department official, on condition of anonymity.
Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar on Sunday had said the state government will take stock of the situation after 8-10 days before deciding about another lockdown. Tope on Monday hinted at stricter curbs on some activities to restrain people from crowding at the public places. The state government has also made RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests mandatory for air and train passengers coming from Delhi-NCR, Gujarat, Goa and Rajasthan. All road travellers from these areas will be screened at border check posts.
Tope on Tuesday said potential super-spreaders such as vegetable vendors, those working in essential services and people with symptoms are being targeted for testing. “Around 75% of tests will be RT-PCR, which is the gold standard of Covid-19 detection, while remaining 25% will be rapid antigen tests. Although there is no discussion on a potential lockdown, the state government is all prepared to handle a surge in cases,” said Tope.
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- Labour unions and political parties such as the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) and Communist parties will also join the farmers’ morcha on Monday.