Maharashtra touched a new record high on Saturday with nearly 50,000 fresh Covid-19 cases. The state, which is on the verge of a second lockdown, reported 49,447 cases in 24 hours along with 277 deaths. Mumbai also fared way worse than when it was at peak of the pandemic with 9,108 new cases; 5,778 cases were recorded in Pune – the worst-hit district in India – and 2,853 people tested positive in Nagpur.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray Saturday held virtual meetings with owners of multiplexes, gyms and newspapers in the state and appealed to them to join the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Sources said that gyms may be shut completely and malls and theatres are likely to face stricter curbs as the state tries to avoid imposing a complete lockdown fearing long-lasting implications on the economy which had just begun showing signs of recovery.
Some multiplex owners have reportedly offered theatre spaces for makeshift hospitals.
With the state recording over half of the daily coronavirus cases in India, the government is considering diverting all industrial use oxygen supply for medical use, CM Thackeray said. In an online interaction with newspaper owners, editors and distributors, Thackeray said a decision on imposing stringent measures to tackle the pandemic will be taken soon but did not confirm if there will be a statewide lockdown.
Thackeray said the state government is considering diverting even that 20 per cent for medical use, because of the surge in cases and the “alarming” situation in the state. The daily demand for oxygen in Maharashtra has touched 700 metric tonnes against the state’s production capacity of over 1200 metric tonnes, an official said.
A notification stating 80 per cent of capping for medical use was issued on Tuesday. It said that the rule would apply to all of Maharashtra and stay in force till June 30. Thackeray said the state government is increasing testing and also not keeping “even a single positive” case under wraps.
The government is also considering steps like opening e-ICUs and increased use of telemedicine in these trying times, he said. “If there comes a time when someone’s livelihood has to be snatched, there is bound to be anguish. But if there is a dilemma on whether to save a life or a job, then it is important to give priority to life,” Thackeray said.
“We have been telling people since last one year. I feel that if all people, be it private offices or shops, had implemented our directives of staggered duty hours, then maybe the situation would not have reached such an alarming level,” he said. The chief minister said office timings should have been divided into 24 hours. “If staggered timings had been followed, there would have been less strain on local trains and BEST city buses. Unfortunately, this did not happen,” he said.
“We have also stressed on wearing masks, using hand sanitisers and keeping a safe distance. Even the WHO says so. It says that even a person who has been vaccinated needs to follow these rules,” Thackeray said.
“So it is not that we did not try. Last year we sent teams to houses. It was possible as there was a lockdown. Even contact tracing of affected persons has become difficult now,” he said. Referring to election rallies in some states amid the pandemic, Thackeray said, “In other states, political rallies of thousands and lakhs of people are happening, but the coronavirus cases are more in Maharashtra than these states.” He said the media should make people aware that the fight against coronavirus is not only the responsibility of the government but also of the masses. Fear of coronavirus from the minds of people should be replaced by awareness about the pandemic, he added.
“There should be no politics in this fight against coronavirus,” Thackeray said, in an apparent reference to the claim by BJP leaders over his government’s handling of the pandemic.