Increase COVID-19 testing, vaccination: Maha CM asks officials

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Mumbai, Jun 24 (PTI) Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday directed the state health authorities to focus on seven districts in the state, where the COVID-19 infection count is relatively higher, and increase testing and vaccination there.

Thackeray also made it clear that there should be no hurry in relaxing the coronavirus-induced restrictions and the local administration should not take any chances considering the threat of the virus spread.

Addressing virtually the collectors of Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Hingoli districts, where the number of cases being reported is high, Thackeray said the state health department should plan about making available oxygen beds, ICU beds, setting up field hospitals in all districts in view of the possibility of a third wave.

He said that upgrading health infrastructure is necessary in view of the prevailing second wave, the Delta plus variant of the virus and the threat of third wave.

'We have to be very careful in future. We are at the tail of the second wave. Unlocking shouldn't be done in a hurry. Each district should be self-sufficient in oxygen production. Administration must ensure that oxygen, medical equipment are available for rural and remote areas,' he said.

Thackeray also said that more field hospitals should be set up and planning for it should be done by identifying buildings and premises. Health secretary Pradeep Vyas said the state's positivity rate has come down to 0.15 per cent, but the positivity rate in the seven districts - three of them in Konkan region, as many in western Maharashtra and one in Marathwada - is double or triple.

Meanwhile, in a separate meeting with oxygen manufacturers, Thackeray said the state's target was producing 3,000 metric tonnes of oxygen per day, and asked them to increase the production and storage capacity.

The present capacity is 1,300 metric tonnes per day.

He asked the companies to take benefit of the government's scheme, under which various concessions are given to boost the oxygen production.

State chief secretary Sitaram Kunte, who was present at the meeting, urged the companies to set up oxygen plants in remote and rural areas.

Maharashtra on Wednesday reported 10,066 COVID-19 infections, taking its overall tally to 59,97,587. The state had on June 16 reported 10,107 cases and since then, the daily count had remained below 10,000. With 163 deaths during the day, the fatality count increased to 1,19,303. PTI MR NP NP

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