Pune sees fresh curbs in light of rise in COVID-19 cases

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(Eds: Adds details) Pune, Mar 12 (PTI) Considering the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the administration in Maharashtra's Pune district has directed schools and colleges to remain shut till March 31 and curtailed the operating time for hotels and restaurants.

According to the new set of restrictions, schools and colleges will remain closed till March 31, hotels and restaurants will be allowed to function till 10 pm, and food deliveries will be permitted till 11 pm, Pune divisional commissioner Saurabh Rao said.

The administration will ensure that the preparations for Class 10 and 12 board exams will not be affected at this time, he said.

Hotels and restaurants will have to operate with 50 per cent seating capacity, and operators have been asked to put up a board displaying the number of patrons in the premises at any given time, the official said.

Citizens will not be permitted to wander on city roads unnecessarily between 11 pm and 6 am, Rao said.

Apart from this, only 50 persons will be permitted to gather at weddings, funerals and political and other social events, the official said, adding that stringent action will be taken by the police in case of violations.

All public gardens and parks in Pune city will remain closed in the evenings, while they will be kept open in the mornings for 'serious' morning walkers, he said.

As per the Pune Municipal Corporation order issued on Friday evening, which are applicable from midnight, five or more people will not be allowed to stand or assemble together at roadside eateries, pan stalls and other such open spaces.

Malls and multiplexes will be allowed to operate till 10 pm, while coaching classes of MPSC and UPSC exams etc will be allowed to operate with 50 per cent sitting capacity, he order informed.

The decision to impose additional curbs was taken during a meeting with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who is also the guardian minister of the district.

The authorities have also held a detailed discussion on COVID-19 vaccination in the city, Rao said.

'As Pune city is witnessing a rise in active cases and daily count of infections is also high, the authorities plan to send a proposal to the Centre seeking a policy decision to inoculate people above the age of 18 in Pune, as an exception,' the official said.

If the Centre decides to allocate additional vaccine doses, the preparedness of the local administration was also reviewed, he said.

'According to the experts, if we inoculate people above 18 in Pune, we will be able to bring down the second wave of the pandemic here,' he added.

He said a decision has been taken to increase the number of institutional isolation centres, while those in home isolation would be monitored closely.

Speaking to reporters, Deputy CM Pawar said some tough decisions have to be taken as it was being seen that some people were not following COVID-19 protocols.

He said the district had adequate number of hospital beds for COVID-19 treatment.

Queried on the vaccination drive in Pune, Pawar said the number of cases were rising and more doses would be needed if everyone above the age of 18 was to be inoculated within city limits.

'I have asked Pune MP Girish Bapat and Maval MP Srirang Barne to raise this issue in Parliament. I will also ask MPs like Amol Kolhe, Supriya Sule to raise the issue,' the Deputy CM said.

Pune district on Thursday reported 2,840 coronavirus cases that took its tally of infections to 4,28,344. PTI SPK ARU BNM BNM