Amid opposition from ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s plan of a statewide shutdown to curb the surge in Covid cases, state officials on Tuesday ruled out a blanket lockdown but assured stricter curbs in a phased manner from next week.
The state government is likely to decide on shutting down restaurants, hotels, theatres and reducing business house hours in a meeting slated to be chaired by Thackeray this weekend, the officials added. “Though it would not be a blanket lockdown, we are using the term to have a psychological impact on the minds of the people. We are now in favour of shutting down interstate or interdistrict travel or bringing down the industrial commercial activities to a halt,” an official from Mantralaya said on condition of anonymity.
“But at the same time, the crowd and gatherings at public places need to be brought down considerably. For this, the operation of market places, shops and establishments need to be curbed. It is necessary to see that private and public offices operate at minimum possible capacity so that crowding in trains and buses is reduced,” the official added. The state on Tuesday reported 27,918 fresh cases, two days after recording the highest 40,414 infections in a day, taking the tally to 2,773,436, the health department announced. With 139 patients succumbing to the infection, the toll in the state mounted to 54,422, it added.
In view of the rising cases, Thackeray had directed officials to start preparing for another lockdown as citizens failed to follow Covid protocols. State minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik, however, said the state “cannot afford any lockdown” and had asked the chief minister to consider other options.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope also hinted at stricter curbs rather than a complete lockdown. “We will impose stricter restrictions first before a complete lockdown. Nobody wants the lockdown but it would be the last resort if the number of new patients exceeds the number of beds available in hospitals and Covid care centres. Before that, we are checking if restaurants and theatres need to be completely shut as crowding in these areas is more,” he said.
Authorities at the state and city levels are reportedly lagging to track and test people arriving from other areas mainly due to shortage of manpower and non-cooperation from citizens.