As the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 53 in Maharashtra, almost one-fourth the national total, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday ordered a complete shutdown of offices and shops excluding essential services in Mumbai, cities in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Nagpur from Friday midnight until March 31. Government offices will function with a skeletal 25 per cent employees.
Five persons — in Mumbai, Kalyan, Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad — tested positive on Friday.
“Many people told me that there is a lot of crowd in trains and buses in Mumbai and asked me shut down these services. It is easy to shut down them. But what will happen to people who are involved in providing essential services and must travel to their workplaces? So, as of now, we have decided not to shut down these two services. All offices and shops, excluding essential services, will remain closed in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Nagpur till March 31,” Uddhav told mediaperons through social media.
He added that if crowding did not end even after this, “we will be compelled to go for the last resort of shutting down train and bus services”.
The CM said that essential services, including supply of foodgrains, milk and medicines as well as the banking sector will continue to operate. “If anybody has any confusion about essential services, they can speak to the municipal commissioners and district collectors,” he added.
Banks, RBI-regulated entities like standalone primary dealers, CCIL, NPCI, payment system operators and financial market participants operating in RBI regulated markets have also been exempted from the shut down.
“I urge all employers not to stop paying your staff even though you are closing down for a few days,” said Uddhav. “After this, there will be an economic crisis to deal with it. We have set up a study group to suggest measures to deal with the economic impact.”
Uddhav reminded the people that the coming days should not be treated as a holiday. “I request you all not to venture out of your homes. It is not a vacation. We are doing for this for your own safety,” he said, adding that this is what all world leaders are telling their people. “The entire world has to stay indoors to live,” he said. He requested Union Finance Minister N Sitaraman to extend the deadline of March 31 for filing belated and revised financial return for 2018-19. Uddhav also requested that the last date to pay TDS and GST returns be extended.
The state government will bear all expenses incurred on medical treatment of COVID-19 patients under Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana (MJPJAY), Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Friday. “The state government will bear entire expenses of all patients. There is a possibility of 10 to 15 per cent of the cases being critical. Expenses for even these will be borne by the state government under MJPJAY,” he told mediapersons.
On the harsh measures taken by the government to contain the pandemic, Tope said, “The question is if majority of the people work from home, it should reflect in public transport. A city’s lifeline also could be shut down if it is necessary to check the rise in cases. A decision will be taken after 48 hours.”
Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis issued a video ‘Fight Against Corona’ and asked people to observe ‘Janta Curfew’ announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a series of campaign posters, BJP asked people to ensure security of self, family and country by staying at home. “If you consider country your home, you will remain at home,” the posters said.
NCP leader and Labour and Excise Minister Dilip Walse Patil appealed to the people to shun friends and get-togethers with relatives. “Avoid crowding. I know it is not easy. But we have to show restrain by staying at home,” he added.
Promising his government’s support for unorganised workers, he said the government has urged the private sectors to conform to guidelines and “not only allow people to work from home but also ensure minimum financial support to workers who were serving the organisation or firms”.
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