Updated: April 11, 2021 8:12:25 pm
As Maharashtra observed the first day of a weekend lockdown after five days of daytime restrictions and night curfews, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray Saturday indicated that the state government would likely impose a longer lockdown of up to 15 days to break the chain of infection, starting Monday, April 12.
At a meeting of representatives from the ruling three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, he sought the cooperation of all parties for any decision that the state will take in this regard. Thackeray was assured support by all those present, including former Chief Minister and leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis.
Fadnavis demanded that the government spell out a detailed plan to allay the fears of people about job losses and livelihood issues during the lockdown.
“As an opposition party, we are willing to lend our support to the government and reach out to all constituents affected by lockdown. But at the same time, while explaining the reasons for extreme measures, we have to give them some options to reconcile with the challenges. The economic concerns cannot be dismissed,” he said at the meeting.
Maharashtra on Saturday recorded 55,411 fresh Covid-19 cases with 9,330 cases in Mumbai. Both the state and city have seen a marginal drop in fresh infections due to restrictions introduced in public movement over the week. The active caseload in the state is 5.36 lakh. Deaths have risen since March with 309 fatalities on Saturday alone. Since the last four days, Maharashtra has recorded over 300 Covid-19 deaths.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, CM Thackeray held a meeting with the State Task Force to discuss various aspects of Covid management, such as the use of remdesivir and the availability of oxygen and hospital beds.
CM Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray in a meeting with the State Task Force discussed the availability of oxygen & beds, use of Remdesivir, treatment protocols, increase in capacity of facilities, imposition of restrictions & fines for violating COVID protocols.
— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) April 11, 2021
In Mumbai, Fadnavis said his party was not not against Covid-19 restrictions. “But the government will have to provide an alternative to various sectors. There is massive unrest amongst the people as it relates to their livelihood and business concerns which cannot be ignored.”
Nawab Malik, NCP minister, said all parties have agreed that if there was a need for a complete lockdown or strict restrictions, then such steps should be taken. Congress minister Ashok Chavan said, “Thackeray is preparing a roadmap on how the complete lockdown should be imposed. The restrictions can be revoked gradually if the number of cases starts reducing.”
Nana Patole, state Congress President, said the state should not impose a lockdown like last year. “We have told the CM not to impose lockdown like last year as that caused huge hardships to people,” he said.
Government sources said the health department officials proposed a 15 day-lockdown in the meeting. The exact duration — 15 days or until April end — is likely to be announced on Sunday after Thackeray’s meeting with the state Covid task force. A complete lockdown may come into effect Monday evening, said sources.
“Some strict restrictions will have to be imposed for some time to stop the Covid cycle. The number of patients is increasing so fast that if we do not take a decision about lockdown today, a lockdown like situation will automatically arise tomorrow,” said Thackeray in the meeting, which was attended by senior ministers from Sena, NCP, Congress, and leaders from the opposition Devendra Fadnavis, Pravin Darekar and others.
Weekend lockdown observed in Pune. (Express Photo/Pavan Khengre)Vaccinations dipped from over 4 lakh to 2.72 lakh on Friday as several centres in the state remained shut due to vaccine shortage. In Mumbai, 33,551 people got immunised on Friday which further dropped to 21,094 on Saturday as only government centres functioned.
Private vaccination centres will remain shut in Mumbai until Monday due to shortage in vaccine supply. On Saturday, the NESCO centre saw a long queue for vaccines, while BKC jumbo centre recorded very few recipients in the first half.
Civic officials said weekend lockdown may have discouraged many from stepping out.
A longer lockdown may not resemble the tough lockdowns of last year, if the weekend lockdown is any indication. Several categories of essential workers have been allowed to step out of their homes for work. Restaurants were allowed home deliveries. Public and private transport remained operational even though there were few takers. “Similarly, it will continue to remain operational even if a complete lockdown is imposed,” said an official.
Another official said one view that emerged from the meeting was that the lockdown should be in effect until reduction in cases is reported for five continuous days. “What if the cases continue to rise even after 15 days of complete lockdown. It is difficult to have a deadline for this, so it was argued that the lockdown should continue until cases drop for five continuous days,” said the official.
The Chief Minister said the government would be mindful of the economic impact of the lockdown on the poor. “The government will certainly consider this. But it is very important to first prevent the rapidly increasing infection and rising cases,” he said.
Officials said an “inclusive plan” would be prepared to give relief to the poor and daily wagers. “While it will be a strict and complete lockdown to break the chain, an attempt will be made to figure out a middle path in reducing the cases and to reduce its impact on the economy,” said the official.
The Chief Minister also said the suggestions made by the leader of the Opposition would also be taken seriously. The government would take action on Fadnavis’s suggestions on ensuring availability of remdesivir, instruction to the laboratories for early reports of tests, and careful planning to make oxygen available, he said.
“I urge all party leaders to extend support to whatever decision is taken by the government keeping the health of the people in mind,” Thackeray said.
Over the last few days, hundreds of migrant workers, who sensed a longer lockdown in the offing as soon as the restrictions were announced, have boarded trains and left for their villages in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. Both Western and Central railways have increased the number of trains to destinations in North India.
Among those who attended the meeting, Fadnavis, Pravin Darekar and state president Chandrakant Patil represented the BJP, minister Eknath Shinde attended from Sena, Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil, Dilip Walse Patil and Nawab Malik from NCP, and Ashok Chavan, Amit Deshmukh and Balasaheb Thorat and state president Nana Patole from Congress.
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(With inputs from Shubhangi Khapre and Tabassum Barnagarwala in Mumbai)
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