COVID-19 cases in Maha dropping, but numbers still at last year's peak: Thackeray

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(Eds: Adding quotes) Mumbai, May 30 (PTI) The daily coronavirus case count in Maharashtra is on the decline, but these numbers are close to last year's peak levels, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Sunday.

Addressing people of the state through social media, he announced that the lockdown-like restrictions currently in force in the state since mid-April, have been extended by a fortnight till June 15.

He said he was taking a district-wise review of the coronavirus situation and curbs will be made stricter where the numbers are on the rise, while some relaxation will be given where the case count is on the decline.

Expressing concern over the steep spike in infection count in rural parts of the state, the chief minister announced 'My village-Corona free' initiative, and asked the people of the state not to let their guard down while bracing for the third wave of the pandemic.

'Even though patient numbers are dropping in the state, we are still at the levels of last year's peak,' Thackeray said.

On September 17 last year, the state had reported the highest single-day figure of 24,896, while on May 26 this year, the number was 24,752, he added.

The CM said that imposing restrictions on people was the most unsavory thing to do, but it was necessary for their health and welfare.

'There is a difference between the COVID-19 virus variant between last time and this time. It is more virulent now, spreading fast and taking longer for the patient to recover,' he said.

'We also have another devil to deal with: black fungus. We have 3,000 cases of mucormycosis in the state. The coronavirus task force is keeping track,' he said.

'Steep spike in rural areas is a cause of concern. The possible third wave of the pandemic has no date. All depends on our behaviour,' he said in his address.

He noted that sarpanch Popatrao Pawar of Hiware Bazar in Ahmednagar district has made his village coronavirus-free.

Taking inspiration from him, more sarpanchs are taking a lead in ensuring that COVID-19 does not spread in their villages.

'If few sarpanchs are doing this, why can't all sarpanchs show the way in their respective villages. We can surely defeat COVID-19,' he said, adding that other villages can follow the HiwareBazar's model of COVID-19 eradication.

'I appeal to all villages to come forward. The government will provide all assistance,' he said.

The 'My village-Corona free' is the latest addition in the state government's initiatives like 'My family- My responsibility', 'I am responsible' and 'My doctor', the chief minister said.

The 'My doctor' initiative of the state government will help reach out to family doctors to avoid overmedication and hospitalisation of asymptomatic cases, he said.

Thackeray said to stop the spread of the virus, people's participation and awareness are also important apart from medical treatment.

'People's participation is important, a government cannot fight the pandemic alone,' he said.

Thackeray demanded a uniform education policy in the country and stressed the need for revolutionary decisions in the field of education in view of the pandemic.

'Education policy should be uniform for the country, especially for examinations that impact the future of students like Class 12. We have decided to cancel Class 10 exams and will soon take a decision on the Class 12 exams. But I would appeal to Pime Minister Narendra Modi to take a call on having a uniform policy in education sector,' he said.

The chief minister said his government will take a decision on rehabilitating children orphaned due to COVID-19.

The CM also talked about the vaccine shortage saying even though the state's machinery is all geared up to expedite the vaccination drive, there are limitations in terms of the availability of doses and production of vaccine.

Thackeray said over two crore citizens, out of the 12 crore population in the state have been vaccinated so far.

'Due to the vaccine shortage, the vaccination of 18 to 44 year age group had to be suspended, butit will resume soon,' he said.

Thackeray said the government is fully geared up to tackle the possible threat of a third wave.

In a veiled attack on the opposition BJP who is planning a state-wide protest on June 5 on the Maratha quota issue, Thackeray said dropping infection count does not mean we should be complacent again.

'Those who threaten to take to the streets if their demands are not fulfilled, I would like to tell them that coronavirus is not a government scheme,' he said.

'Don't be a coronavirus spreader and invite a third wave,' he said. PTI MR VT NP NP

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