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Decision on lockdown likely after cabinet meet on April 14: Rajesh Tope

Tope was speaking after a two-hour meeting that Thackeray had with the State Covid Task Force comprising senior doctors, in which various modalities of ramping up the state’s healthcare system to cater to the rising Covid-19 cases were discussed.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: April 12, 2021 8:04:02 am
A Mumbai Police officer patrols near the Gateway of India to impose the weekend lockdown.

On a day Maharashtra reported over 63,000 new coronavirus cases in its highest ever single-day surge along with 349 deaths, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Sunday said that a formal decision on imposition of a lockdown in Maharashtra is likely to be taken by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray after a cabinet meeting on April 14.

Tope was speaking after a two-hour meeting that Thackeray had with the State Covid Task Force comprising senior doctors, in which various modalities of ramping up the state’s healthcare system to cater to the rising Covid-19 cases were discussed.

During the meeting, the CM said that the present citation called for tougher restrictions to control the spread of infection.

The state government has also decided that in order to tide over the shortage of Remdesivir, procurement of the drug could be done by private hospitals only through the district collector.

On the second day of its weekend lockdown, Maharashtra registered 63,294 cases, a steep jump over the 55,411 cases registered on Sunday. Its active case load stands at 5.65 lakh and it is the worst-hit among all states in the country.

“In the next two days there will be a discussion with the Finance Department and other departments. The Chief Minister may hold a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Once this is done, probably by April 14 the Chief Minister may take an appropriate decision,” Tope said when asked about when the lockdown was likely to be imposed.

Tope added that during the meeting of the State Task Force, the consensus was that the situation in the state necessitated a lockdown. “Some task force members had a different view, but the majority believed that there is no alternative to a lockdown. The situation in some cities over availability of oxygen beds and ICUs is precarious,” he said.

Tope said that discussion was held on ways of ramping up the state’s health infrastructure. He said that the conservation and effective use of Remedesivir was a top priority for the next 15 days. He added that for the next 10-15 days it was important that in view of its shortage Remdesivir is used sparingly and only those who are in urgent need of it are given the drug.

A decision was also taken to ensure that all Remdesivir distribution for private hospitals in all districts would occur through the district collector.

“We have decided that the distribution of Remdesivir to private hospitals should be controlled by the collector. The medicines should be kept at the stockists and be distributed to hospitals through the collector. By doing this we are eliminating the distributors and retailers from the chain,” Tope said. He said that government hospitals would be allowed to purchase the medicine directly from companies.

The state health department will create a system where physicians will have to fill a form to prescribe Remdesivir and explain the clinical condition of patients to get the vial approved. Hospitals will be asked to procure the drug instead of asking patients’ kin to visit pharmacies and buy it.

Tope said that a discussion was also held on augmenting oxygen supply and a proposal had been mooted to set up liquid oxygen plants in every district. A final discussion on setting up these plants will be taken up in Monday’s meeting that the CM will be holding with the Finance Department.

Meanwhile, some members of the task force who gave their suggestions indicated that a total lockdown was not feasible and suggested “a less stringent” lockdown to reduce the total number of new Covid-19 cases in districts. Members of the task force said the restrictions must be in place for a few days to allow reduction in patients so it is easy to manage with existing hospital infrastructure.

“The decision on whether to opt for a lockdown for eight days or 14 days will be taken by the CM. Scientifically, if eight-day lockdown is implemented, its impact will be seen eight days later,” said Dr Rahul Pandit, task force member.

The state is, however, considering allowing some movement during the lockdown, with Relief and Rehabilitation Department Secretary Aseem Gupta indicating that “domestic help, migrant labourers and delivery people do not need to panic”.

“We have also suggested that third-year MBBS students be roped in to help in Covid treatment. This will create a bigger pool of doctors to handle the load,” Dr Avinash Supe, a member of the Task Force, said. Another member, Dr Shashank Joshi, said the state is also getting Covid-19 samples from every district sequenced to understand the mutation and which areas are affected by what variant.

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