(Eds: adds details about oxygen procurement measures) Mumbai, Apr 20 (PTI) The Maharashtra cabinet favours a 'strict lockdown' to curb the coronavirus pandemic and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is likely to make an announcement in this regard on Wednesday, a senior minister said here.
The cabinet on Tuesday decided to cancel std 10th exam of the state board. It also sanctioned measures to increase the availability of oxygen including utilisation of oxygen produced by power plants, health minister Rajesh Tope said.
Tope and Public Works Minister Eknath Shinde were talking to reporters after a cabinet meeting amid an alarming rise in coronavirus cases in the state.
Maharashtra has been reporting over 50,000 coronavirus cases every day in the last two weeks but people are still flouting the existing restrictions on movement and gatherings, the ministers said.
'All the cabinet ministers expressed views in favour of a strict lockdown to minimise the spread of COVID-19.
Ministers come from all corners of the state, so it also indicates that the entire state needs this measure,' Tope said.
'Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray could make an official announcement about more stringent measures tomorrow,' Tope added.
The cabinet also decided that std 10th exam be cancelled, he said.
The std 10th exam of the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education was scheduled to be held by April-end.
'The std 12th exam will certainly be held, but we have decided to give relief to std 10th students,' Tope said.
On oxygen availability, the health minister said the state was 'managing with 1,550 metric tonnes of oxygen' per day at present.
'The state has been allowed to get 300 MT of oxygen from other states. The Centre can allot us another 300 MT, but we can not get more than 2,000 MT, overall,' he said.
'Using oxygen generators is the only option we have. A couple of tenders have been floated already for the purchase of oxygen generators. We have asked district collectors to consider those rates as base point and issue purchase orders,' Tope added.
'Every district should have such plants. The cabinet has approved it,' he said.
There are six thermal power plants in the state which also generate oxygen but it needs to be liquefied for transportation and supply to hospitals, Tope said.
These plants will now have a dedicated bottling plant and the oxygen will be supplied to nearby hospitals, he said.
The cabinet also decided to purchase a minimum of 200 oxygen concentrator machines for each of 36 districts, he informed.
PWD minister Shinde said oxygen-carrying tankers will be given the status of ambulance to facilitate their smooth and speedy movement. PTI ND KRK KRK