Five days into the 10-day lockdown imposed on the twin cities, the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporations on Saturday eased some restrictions and allowed stores selling essential commodities, such as grocery and vegetables, to remain open for a four-hour period from Monday.
In a bid to avoid overcrowding on the first day, both civic bodies have allowed essential commodity shops and vegetable vendors to operate from 8 am to 6 pm on Sunday. From Monday, they will be allowed to operate from 8 am to 12 noon.
The orders for relaxation of the lockdown were issued by Pune Municipal Commissioner Vikram Kumar and Pimpri-Chichwad Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar.
As the number of Covid-19 cases in Pune district crossed 45,000, a lockdown had been imposed on Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and parts of Pune rural from July 14 to July 23, in an effort to curb the spread of the infection
“The real purpose of the lockdown was to test more and take the positive cases out of the system, to ensure that there was no further spread. I think we are achieving that purpose,” said PCMC chief Sharavan Hardikar.
Hardikar said the number of samples tested has gone up three times during the lockdown. “A week ago, we were testing 1,000 samples. Now, during the lockdown period, we are testing 3,000 samples every day… Pune district is testing more than Mumbai now,” he said.
A PCMC health official, however, said no substantial reduction was observed in the transmission rate in the last five days of strict lockdown. He said the transmission rate remained between 20 to 25 per cent. “For instance, if we tested 1,000 samples, 25 per cent tested positive. If we tested 2,000 samples, 23 per cent tested positive. And if we tested 3,000 samples, 21 per cent tested positive…”.
PMC health chief Ramchandra Hankare said, “PMC is now testing 7,000 samples every day, which is a major achievement. More testing, more screening and more tracing during the lockdown will help us the break the chain of transmission. The full impact of the lockdown will be known after 10 days.”
District Collector Naval Kishore Ram said,”We have so far not been able to analyse the impact of the five-day strict lockdown. The lockdown will certainly benefit the two cities and we will come to know about its impact only after 10 days”.
On whether curbs will remain in place after the lockdown ends, the collector said, “I will discuss the issue with both PMC and PCMC commissioners and take a call. We might continue some of the curbs. We may also consider imposing a total lockdown on Saturdays and Sundays…”.
Both the civic administrations warned of legal action against stores that fail to implement the earlier direction of ensuring physical distancing among customers.
While online e-commerce services will be able to resume their services, food delivery services, restaurants and salons will remain closed till July 23.
Meanwhile, the Pune Traders Association has urged the PMC as well as Pune Guardian Minister Ajit Pawar and NCP chief Sharad Pawar to withdraw the strict lockdown and allow all stores to operate as they are suffering financial losses.
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