Updated: June 4, 2021 1:56:55 am
An announcement by Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vijay Wadettiwar on Thursday that lockdown-like restrictions would be lifted in 18 districts of Maharashtra on Friday forced the government to clarify hastily that no such decision had been taken and that it was only a proposal under discussion.
Blindsided by Wadettiwar’s announcement, which came soon after a meeting of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and other ministers with the State Disaster Management Authority, at which a “five-step unlockdown” proposal was discussed in detail, and was disseminated across the country within minutes, the Chief Minister’s Office had to swiftly deny any such decision.
Officials attached to the CMO were calling reporters to say that Wadettiwar’s statement was wrong and should not be disseminated. The government’s publicity department issued a clarification that the five-step unlockdown was only a proposal. The relief and rehabilitation department had proposed relaxation but any decision would be based on the Covid case count in each district, which is being looked at closely, the release said.
“Covid’s second wave has still not reduced and the spread has increased in rural areas. A proposal is being examined on how the lockdown can be relaxed and no proposal has been okayed so far. A five-phase unlockdown process is being planned and the government will be informing at a formal level. The government is assessing the situation in various districts,” the government said in the clarification.
While it is unclear why Wadettiwar decided to jump the gun, his detailed announcement on how the lockdown would be lifted gave a glimpse of what the removal of restrictions may look like.
“In level one, there are 18 districts which will have an unlockdown, five districts in level two, 10 in level three and two in level four. The rest are in level 5. Level one has Aurangabad, Bhandara, Buldhana, Chandrapur, Dhule, Gadchiroli, Gondia, Jalgaon, Jalna, Latur, Nagpur, Nanded, Nashik, Parbhani, Thane, Washim, Wardha and Yavatmal districts. Level two has Ahmednagar, Amravati, Hingoli, Mumbai, Dhule districts. In level three, Akola, Beed, Palghar, Ratnagiri, Kolhapur, Osmanabad, Sangli, Satara, Sindhudurg and Solapur are included, and Pune and Raigad will open later. We will implement from tomorrow ie Friday,” he announced.
He also said that if the number of fresh cases comes down further in Mumbai, local trains would be restarted. The government has proposed that unlockdown will happen on positivity ratio, number of cases and bed availability.
Soon after the press conference, Wadettivar flew to Nagpur, where he said that the issue was discussed in the State Disaster Management Authority and the CM would make the formal announcement. However, the government’s clarification appeared to suggest that the five-level plan is still work in progress.
Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Pravin Darekar said, “The entire government is in confusion. While minister Wadettiwar was announcing the unlockdown, the Chief Minister’s Office was calling everyone and saying there is no unlockdown. People have been left confused. There is no proper communication by the government.”
Health Minister Rajesh Tope also said that a lockdown was still in force and no restrictions had been relaxed since June 1, when the government allowed shops to remain open for longer hours and permitted non-essential shops to reopen.
Maharashtra on Thursday registered 15,229 Covid cases, a substantial decrease from the highest single-day tally of 68,631 that it registered on April 18. The number of cases has been seeing a steady decline since mid-May. The total cases in the state now stand at 57.91 lakh, of which 2,04,974 are active.
The total death toll was 307, of which 228 had occurred in the last 48 hours and 79 in the last week, taking the total death toll to 97,394.
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