CM Thackeray favours lockdown in some cities if cases keep rising: Tope

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(Eds: adding quotes) Pune, Mar 22 (PTI) Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Monday said people must follow COVID-19 safety protocols if the state is to avoid another lockdown.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was of the view that lockdown may become necessary in some cities if the new cases continue to climb, Tope told reporters here.

At the same time, he also defended the state's response to rising cases and pointed out that in terms of cases per million population, many states have fared worse.

He met the Chief Minister two days ago, Tope said.

'He told me that if the number of daily cases in the state remains in the range of 25,000 to 30,000 for the next some days, then we will have to take some stringent steps. He is of the opinion that if the numbers continue to increase, we will have to impose lockdown in some cities,' the minister said.

'I appeal people to respond to CM's warning (about possibility of lockdown) positively and follow the COVID-19 protocols such as mask wearing, hand hygiene and physical distancing to avoild lockdown,' Tope said.

He also said that the Centre has told the states that the gap between two shots of Covishield vaccine will be 45 to 60 days instead of the present 28 days. The gap between doses of Covaxin will be same as earlier, that is 28 days.

He has discussed the latest surge in cases with epidemiologists, the health minister said.

'According to their estimate, the graph of COVID-19 cases will remain the same for the next two to three days and after that, it will decline. I think this is a peak and I hope it will go down,' said Tope.

He also said that the state was not hiding any cases, and each case is registered with the ICMR.

'The question is if this is being followed in other states or not,' he said.

While the Centre wants at least 70 per cent of tests to be RTPCR, in Maharashtra, the proporftion is 73 per cent, Tope said.

'We have over 550 RTPCR labs in the state. So we have told all the civil surgeons that the RT-PCR should be used at its full capacity,' he said.

Big rallies are being held in some of the poll-bound states where no social distancing is followed, and in Gujarat, cricket matches were held with thousands in attendance, the minister pointed out.

Tope also denied that vaccines were going to waste.

'It was told (by the centre) that 58 lakh doses were given to the state and now the vaccine doses are still lying unused. There is no such situation,' he said.

'Every day, 3 lakh vaccinations are happening and we are trying to increase it by roping in private hospitals and setting up sub-centres in rural areas to make it convenient for the people,' he added.

There are 1.77 crore people who are eligible for the vaccine in the current phase and the state will need 2.20 crore doses for them, Tope said, adding that the government was striving to complete this phase in three months.

Though Maharashtra tops in absolute number of coronavirus cases, in terms of per million population cases, Delhi, Puducherry and some other states have higher infection rate, Tope argued.

'We are at 7th position. In the last one month, Sikkim saw six times more cases. In Ladakh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, cases are increasing. Andhra Pradesh saw an increase of 180per cent,' the health minister said.

'I am not pointing fingers at other states. The state is responding to the COVID-19 situation as per the guidance of the Centre in true letter and spirit. Even the prime minister has expressed positive opinion about the state's response,' he said.

He also appealed that asymptomatic patientsshould not rush to private hospitals and occupy ICU beds. PTI SPK KRK KRK