The Maharashtra government is likely to impose a statewide lockdown soon as spiralling coronavirus cases continue to ravage the already crippling healthcare system. According to officials, there was a possibility of 15-day long statewide lockdown.
On Tuesday, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said all cabinet ministers have requested Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to announce the statewide lockdown. "We have requested the chief minister to announce a complete lockdown in the state from tomorrow at 8pm. This was the request of all ministers to the chief minister. Now it is his decision," Tope said.
Having learnt its lessons from the last lockdown, the government is likely to do away with the pass system this time. Long-distance trains and flights will continue to operate, while inter-district road transport will be closely monitored by the police.
A senior government source told CNN News18 there was no point in sealing borders of districts. “Supply of essential goods, vegetables, food grains, dairy, milk, poultry will have to continue uninterrupted. But private vehicles will not be allowed to ply if they do not have a valid reason. The contours of the lockdown have been worked out, and specific instances have been given for which exemptions can be made,” the source said.
In Mumbai, local train services will not be shut, but they will be available only to those engaged in essential services. Grocery and essential services stores will be allowed to stay open only for limited time in a staggered manner.
Regarding the issuance of passes, officials said there was largescale chaos last time as police had to provide the permits to all those who wanted to travel outside specific cities. In a bid to avoid overcrowding outside police stations, the government is likely to do away with the pass system. This would, however, not mean that private vehicles will be allowed to move freely. Point-to-point checking will be done to make sure that people do not leave homes unnecessarily.
Only those moving within the city for taking vaccine will be allowed to travel on the production of valid documents.
On Tuesday, another minister, Aslam Sheikh, said, "Looking at the shortage of supply of medical oxygen, Maharashtra is heading towards a complete lockdown; guidelines regarding it will be announced soon."
The state is already under a 15-day curfew since April 14 with Section 144 imposed everywhere. While all necessary services were allowed to operate, public transport was available only to emergency service providers. Health, pharma, transporters, vaccines producers and animal-related shops remained open, besides petrol pumps, financial institutions associated with SEBI.
If Thackeray finally goes ahead with a complete lockdown, it would come a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to states to consider imposing lockdowns as only the last option.