MAHARASHTRA HEALTH Minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday hinted at a ban on firecrackers during Diwali and stated that the measure was necessary to shield Covid-19 patients and stall a possible second wave of infections in the state.
“People should prepare that they may have to celebrate Diwali without firecrackers this year. The smoke from the firecrackers can cause breathing problems. They are also toxic, causing further issues for Covid patients. We need to ensure that we celebrate a firecracker-free Diwali this year. I am going to put forth a proposal regarding this before the chief minister and the state Cabinet,” Tope told mediapersons.
He was speaking after meeting senior officials of the health department, members of the state death audit committee as well as the state Covid-19 task force. The meeting was held to formulate a strategy to counter a probable second wave of infections that Tope said could be brought in by the change in weather.
“Europe is facing a second wave and, with the change in weather, we are vulnerable as well. While the probability of a second wave is low, everyone has agreed that we should not drop our guard,” he added.
The minister further said the state would ensure optimal testing and tracing, and that there would be increased efforts to ensure that “super spreaders” like vendors and employees working at public transit systems underwent Covid-19 testing.
On the 80:20 bed reservation formula, as per which private hospitals have been advised to keep aside 80 per cent of their beds and charge government-approved subsidised rates to patients using them, Tope said in areas where Covid-19 cases were under control, the district administration could bring down the number of such reserved beds to a minimum of 50 per cent.
At present, districts with high caseload like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are witnessing a consistent decline in new cases.
Other districts like Thane, Jalgaon and Aurangabad are also reporting low caseload, leading to several vacancies in isolation beds at hospitals.
Hospitals have now urged the state government to allow them to utilise these beds for non-Covid patients.
The 80:20 bed reservation notification is in force till the end of November.
In August, when the state renewed its notification to reserve beds at private hospitals, their managements had urged the government to reduce the reservation from over 80 per cent to 50 to 60 per cent.
Dr Gautam Bhansali, who has been coordinating with the government on behalf of private hospitals in Mumbai, said hospitals were going to wait for a week or so after Diwali to see if a second wave in cases emerges.
“If not, we are going to ask the government to release a few isolation beds for non-Covid patients,” he added.
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