‘Mission Begin Again’ to unlock Maha in phasesUpdated: Jun 01, 2020 00:09 IST
The Maharashtra government on Sunday extended its coronavirus-enforced lockdown to June 30 even as it extended more relaxations, such as allowing outdoor activities like jogging, running and cycling from June 3 and private offices to operate from June 8 in red zones (excluding containment zones).
Announcing the lifting of curbs that will be rolled out in three phases, the state issued a notification — Mission Begin Again — which aims to bring the state on track to routine life amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
This comes a day after the Centre announced guidelines on lockdown 5.0, billed as ‘Unlock 1’, allowing for significant relaxations.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, in his Facebook live address on Sunday night, said the lifting of curbs was being done very cautiously as the state was at a turning point. “We have either reached the peak of the curve or are about to reach. There will be a downward trend starting in the next eight-15 days. We are easing it out in a phased manner, so that we will not have to withdraw relaxations like how a few countries were forced to do so. In some countries, the lockdown curbs were reimposed because of the surge, while in some others, schools had to be shut down after they were opened,” he said.
Thackeray also announced that newspapers will be allowed to be delivered at doorsteps from June 7. He said dealers have been directed to ensure that adequate measures are taken for the safety of delivery boys.
Even as the state rolled out its ‘Mission Begin Again’, it reported 2,487 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, taking the total to 67,655. The toll rose to 2,286 cases with 89 more deaths. The state continued to improve its recovery rate, taking it to 45% as 29,329 patients recovered from the infection till Sunday.
The doubling rate in Maharashtra reached 17.5%, as against the national rate of 15.7 days, while the mortality rate dropped to 3.37%. In Mumbai, 1,244 new cases and 52 deaths were reported, taking the tally to 39,686 and toll to 1,279.
According to the state’s latest notification, physical activities, including walking, running, exercising, cycling, can begin from June 3 in sports complexes, stadia, playgrounds, beaches and open spaces. Shops, market places can be open (on odd-even basis) from June 5 and private offices (up to 10 per cent of staff) can start operating from June 8. These relaxations are applicable for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) [the areas governed by nine municipal corporations], Pune, Solapur, Aurangabad, Malegaon, Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur — the 19 corporations, which have been earmarked as red zones. All the containment zones within the red zones remain excluded from the relaxations.
The non-red zone areas, which include the remaining eight municipal corporations and rest of Maharashra, mostly covering the rural areas, have already been given greater relaxations. The state has not given permission to hotels and religious places to open even though they have been allowed by the Centre.
Private offices in all the red zones can now operate at 10% of their strength, with the remaining staff working from home. “The offices will have to take care of transportation facilities for its employees as public transport has not been allowed in red zones,” said a government official. Government offices have been allowed to operate at 15% of their strength, up from the current permission of 5%.
“We are billing it as Mission Begin Again, as it a beginning of the lifting of curbs in a phased manner. Although we have extended the lockdown till June 30, there will be graded relaxations coming in the next four weeks. Industrial and commercial activities will see greater relaxations on the need-base criterion. Few more civic corporations may see exclusion from the red zones,” said an official from the state government.
All markets, market areas and shops, except malls and market complexes, have now been allowed to open on a P1-P2 basis between 9am and 5pm. Shops on one lane will be allowed to open on odd dates, while another lane will be opened on even dates. The notification, however, warned that the violation of social-distancing norms by such shops, markets will result in their closure immediately.
In a veiled attack on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in the state, Thackeray said that Maharashtra has done a fair job in the battle against Covid-19, but “some of our own people” are targeting the government.
“People who have been criticising us and demanding for the military to be called (for the implementation of lockdown norms), should first look at the figures. Our recovery rate and the infrastructure, which has been set up in the last few weeks, is better than many other states and even countries. We are ready with the health infrastructure to face the challenge and have successfully fought it so far. More than 29,000 patients have recovered and the mortality rate has dropped to 3.37%, which will drop further in the near future,” he said.
Thackeray said that the state has augmented the bed capacity to 25,000 for treating infection in 2,576 hospitals, while the isolation bed capacity has been ramped up to 2.5 lakh beds.
The order also clarified that cycling, jogging, running at playgrounds, beaches, society premises and open spaces is now allowed by maintaining social distancing. It has also allowed self-employed commercial activities like plumber and electricians in red zones. The notification is silent on allowing maids or househelps in housing societies, with senior officials saying that has been left to housing societies and it is not prohibited.
Domestic helps are allowed to be employed in red zones, if housing societies decide it. However, they are not allowed to work in containment zones and similarly, they should not be coming from containment zones, said government officials.
The state government also issued a separate notification allowing shooting of films, television shows and series on OTT platforms by maintainingnorms of the lockdown. The notification has also warned that permission will be withdrawn if lockdown norms were not followed. The producers will have to apply with Films, Theatre and Cultural Development Corporation in Mumbai and collectors in other districts.
Trains, metro, inter-state and inter-district transport, educational institutions, malls, multiplexes, place of worship, political-religious-social gatherings, barbar shops, spas, saloons remain banned across the state, be it in red or non-red zones.
Forty-seven of the patients who died on Sunday were above 60 years of age, while 35 were in the age group of 40 to 59 years and the remaining seven were below the age of 40 years. 56 of them had high-risk comorbidities, including diabetes, hypertension and heart ailments.
The testing rate in the state is 3,585 per million, against the national average of 2,722 tests a million.