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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Maharashtra: Tighter curbs on movement, quarantine for inter-district travel

Even as it continued to shy away from the use of the word “lockdown” in official communication, the curbs, announced on Wednesday, were more stringent than any other restrictions put in place in recent past in the state.

Written by Vishwas Waghmode | Mumbai |
Updated: April 22, 2021 5:53:51 pm
Migrant workers, leaving Mumbai, queue up outside Lokmanya Tilak Terminus. (Express photo by Pradip Das)

Only authorised medical and government personnel will be able to board local trains, metro and mono trains, private transport such as taxi and auto-rickshaw will be allowed only in case of an emergency, and people travelling to other districts will have to undergo mandatory 14-day home quarantine as Maharashtra government further tightened restriction across the state in the wake of alarming surge in the number of new Covid-19 cases.

Even as it continued to shy away from the use of the word “lockdown” in official communication, the curbs, announced on Wednesday, were more stringent than any other restrictions put in place in recent past in the state.

The new set of restrictions will come into effect from 8pm on Thursday and will remain in force until 7am on May 1.

Under the new restrictions, inter-district travel by private transport will be restricted to emergency purposes only. While passengers will be allowed to travel on long-distance trains and buses, their hands will be stamped and they will be sent to a two-week home quarantine. Buses will ply with 50 per cent of their seating capacity.

In a bid to rein in fresh infections, the Maharashtra government first announced curbs on April 4 and kept on revising them with last order on April 20.

The government has also drastically reduced the attendance of staff at all government offices, including those governed by the centre, to 15 per cent or five personnel (whichever is higher) except for offices involved in emergency services directly connected to the management of the pandemic.

As per the new guidelines, local trains, metro and monorail will be accessible only to government employees (state, centre and local authorities) and medical personnel such as doctors, paramedics, lab technicians and medical clinic staff. Tickets or passes will be issued to them based on the identity cards of the government and of concerned medical organizations respectively. “Any person needing medical treatment or specially-abled persons along with one person accompanying the needy will be allowed to use local trains, metro and monorail,” said the order.

Private passenger transport such as taxi and auto-rickshaw, excluding buses, can ply only for emergency or essential services or other valid reasons with 50% of the seating capacity. “These are not expected to be inter-district or inter-city and should be confined to the city of residence of the travellers. Inter-district or inter-city travel is allowed only if required for performing an essential service or in case of medical emergencies or attending unavoidable events like funerals or severe sickness of family,” added the order.

For long-distance trains and inter-city and inter-district travelling by buses, the order said the local railway officers/Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) officers shall provide all information that local disaster management authority require for screening the passengers.

“At stoppages, where passengers are alighting, all passengers shall be stamped on hand for 14 days home quarantine. Thermal scanners shall be used and anyone with symptom shall be moved to corona care centres or to a hospital,” said the order.

“We don’t want people to walk around like last time. If they want to go to their native places, they can go but they will remain in home quarantine for 14 days mandatorily,” said an official.

The government has further left it to the local authorities to decide on the RAT (Rapid Antigen Test) of the passengers at the alighting point by appointing authorised labs. The cost of the test will be borne by the passengers. “We want to promote the RAT test, which is 50 per cent accurate but all the districts do not have the capacity to do it. So, they can take a call depending on the local situation,” said the official.

For weddings, the government said they may be conducted only as a single event in just one venue with the duration not extending beyond two hours and attendance beyond 25 persons. “With restrictions of 25 people, there were instances of people being invited in different batches throughout the day. So, we have restricted it to two hours in all and an overall attendance of 25 people,” said the official.

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