Mumbai witnessed an expected surge in vehicular traffic as private offices opened up to 30 per cent of their capacity and inter-district travel norms were eased under the fourth phase of relaxation from the Covid-19 lockdown, which came into effect from Wednesday.
Senior police officials said more people turned out on the roads Wednesday as compared to the last working day of the previous week. “We did not take any action against motorists Wednesday as it was the first day of the new unlock guidelines. We decided to observe the movement of traffic instead,” Pravin Padwal, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), said.
Motorists are still allowed only to take their vehicles to shops within their neighbourhoods, Padwal said. “They can only take their vehicles out for valid reasons.”
Padwal said, on the basis of the increase in traffic congestion and the areas which saw increased vehicular movement, fresh strategies for deploying traffic police personnel would be decided Thursday. Meanwhile, movement of vehicles remained slow on both the Eastern and Western Express Highways on Wednesday morning as cars broke down on both roads.
Till Tuesday, the Mumbai Police had booked 2,927 motorists for driving without a valid reason since the lockdown was imposed. However, only one such case was registered Tuesday, the final day of Ganesh Chaturthi.
As part of its ‘Mission Begin Again’, the state government from Wednesday has allowed all private offices to operate with up to 30 per cent strength as per the requirement with remaining employees continuing to work from home. While some offices in the business districts of Bandra Kurla Complex and Nariman Point have spruced up their premises for the additional number of employees, many have continued to adopt a wait-and-watch approach before allowing employees to operate from offices.
The state government has also allowed hotels and lodges to operate at 100 per cent capacity from Wednesday. The state had earlier allowed hotels to reopen at 33 per cent capacity from July but most hotels were getting customers fewer than 10 per cent of their overall capacity.
On Wednesday, Hotel and Restaurant Association (Western India) (HRAWI) wrote to the Chief Minister seeking other relaxations, including allowing restaurants and bars within the hotels to be reopened to bring in revenues. “The ease of restriction to allow more functioning at full capacity is welcome. With restrictions lifted from intra-district travel within the state, we are hopeful that there will be more customers now. Many hotels have, however, continued to remain shut awaiting air travel to reopen,” Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, president of HRAWI, said.
“The increase in capacity may be a step towards going back to normal, but currently it will not make a big difference to the demand. We have been operating at a capacity of 10-20 per cent since July and till international air travel and corporate meetings pick up, we will not see a surge in demand,” Rakesh Shetty, a partner in Indie Stays, which has a hotel in Kalina, said.