With every passing day, Maharashtra is witnessing a new record with respect to Covid-19 case numbers. Looking at the increase in numbers of coronavirus patients, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackerey has directed Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte to submit a detailed lockdown plan with minimum economic impact if people don’t follow Covid norms in the state. A second lockdown is expected to be imposed from 2 or 3 April in Maharashtra for a limited period (approximately for two weeks), sources in the state government revealed, as they prepare for restrictions. The announcement is expected in a day or two. Maharashtra, which has been witnessing a huge rise in new Coronavirus cases, recorded a slight dip on Tuesday with 27,918 infections and 139 deaths in a span of 24 hours, according to the state health department. With 139 deahts due to the Covid-19 infection, the count in the state mounted to 54,422, it said. The lockdown option was discussed at a meeting CM Thackeray had with Health Minister Rajesh Tope, Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas, Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte and the Covid Task Force to consider ways to bring the surge in cases under control. Stressing that people’s health is the top priority, Thackarey asked for a detailed plan and lockdown strategy that ensures supply of essential commodities, including food grains, medicines and doesn’t hamper health services. The lockdown would be the last resort if people don’t follow Covid-19 norms. “The situation in Mumbai and Maharashtra is pretty grave; we are seeing a fastspreading strain which is more transmissible and less virulent. Recovery is fast but the healthcare infrastructure is been used very fast. Currently, 10-30 percent beds are empty, but if the healthcare infrastructure is overburdened, then the CM has advised the administration for a potential lockdown. The first strategy right now is about micro-containment, testings, aggressive contact tracing and aggressive tracking. If our healthcare infrastructure gets overburdened in the coming two weeks, as a last resort, the lockdown will be the only option.
The two weeks after 15 April will be a make-orbreak time for the state as numbers are exponentially growing up. Empty beds are rapidly filling up as the rate of growth of cases is high,” Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the Covid Task Force, told The Sunday Guardian. The task force has expressed concern and in view of the increasing current trend, there could be immense pressure on ventilators, oxygen beds, and ICUs in the coming days. Considering the rising Covid cases, the CM has asked the administration to ensure adequate availability of medicines, healthcare, essential services and civil supplies. An additional 2,269 Covid beds, including 360 ICU beds in private hospitals, will be made available with immediate effect. An additional 1,500 beds will be operationalised in jumbo Covid centres. However, allotment of beds will only take place through the 24 Ward War Rooms. The state has witnessed an all-time high of over 40,000 cases. Overall, the state has 3.57 lakh isolation beds of which 30% or 1.07 lakh are occupied. Of the 60,349 oxygen beds, 12,701 are occupied, and 1,881 of the 9,030 ventilators are currently functional.
After the crucial meeting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackerey, the relief and rehabilitation department has started to frame the SOPs for a lockdown. Also, the state authorities are introspecting to reduce the timings of the shops, cutting down Best services and asking the railways to strictly implement crowd management. The suburban/long distance trains and public transport buses will be given strict guidelines to follow. Testing at railway stations and airports will be intensified. The manufacturing sector will be allowed to operate at full-scale, but not without adhering to Covid-19 protocols. It was decided that patients should be kept in institutional quarantine/isolation instead of home quarantine. Oxygen production would be increased and supply chains taken to the places where they are needed; more ventilators to be bought and the number of intensive care units increased. Private doctors will be roped in to enhance trained frontline workforce. The order stated that employees with co-morbidities will be encouraged to work from home.
Some state leaders have, however, expressed concerns about the government’s decision to enforce lockdown. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that a complete lockdown will devastate the economy of Maharashtra. Raut said that he had asked Thackeray to impose targeted restrictions rather than issuing complete stay-at-home orders. Most Cabinet members are against a lockdown. In the first lockdown people suffered, a large number lost their jobs and the economy collapsed, said NCP leader and state minister Nawab Malik. State BJP President Chandrakant Patil also said that lockdown is not a solution for the rise in Covid cases. Patil said the BJP will protest on the streets if lockdown is imposed.
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