As Maharashtra sees renewed COVID-19 spike, local authorities impose weekend lockdowns, night curfews
The state government has also decided to approach the Centre for permission to begin the third phase of the vaccination drive earlier than the scheduled date
The Maharashtra government has imposed restrictions in several districts to curb a rise in the COVID-19 cases this week. On Friday, the state reported 6,112 new cases in the span of 24 hours, which is the highest single-day spike in the last three months.
Authorities in places like Nashik, Nagpur, Wardha, Yavatmal, Amravati, Akola and Buldhana have resorted to weekend lockdowns and night curfews to try to control the sudden surge of cases.
In Mumbai and Pune, authorities tightened restrictions on gatherings and said that there are no plans to impose any lockdown restrictions in the cities yet.
The state government has also reportedly decided to approach the Centre for permission to begin the third phase of the vaccination drive earlier than the scheduled date. The third phase of inoculation has been planned for people above the age of 50 and people with comorbidities and is set to begin in March.
The Times of India quoted Maharashtra technical advisor Dr Subhash Salunkhe as saying, “In Maharashtra and Kerala, where there is an increase in cases in pockets, the Centre must start vaccination of those above 50 years and those with comorbidities earlier so that the situation can be in control. When we have a primary tool for prevention and vaccine companies have assured us of adequate production, the Union government should act fast. There is a spurt in cases in pockets of Marathwada and Vidarbha."
Here is an overview of measures that authorities are taking to curb the recent spike in coronavirus cases:
While the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is reportedly not planning to impose a lockdown, it issued a fresh set of guidelines and COVID-19 protocol on Thursday.
The municipal body is set to take stringent action against people caught without masks, and against those flouting the rules of home isolation, weddings and public gatherings.
The directives also said that buildings with five or more cases will be sealed.
The BMC has decided to appoint 300 marshals to take action against passengers travelling without mask in suburban trains. The order also directed to increase the number of marshals to 48,000 in order to catch 25,000 offenders every day.
Besides marshals, the police too will able to take action against offenders. MCGM teachers too have been roped in to ensure the use of masks in MCGM-run buildings and take punitive action against offenders.
Orders have also been passed to raid marriage halls, clubs, restaurants, etc, to ensure that COVID-19 norms are followed. "Action shall also be initiated against organisers and managements/establishments flouting rules laid down for organising weddings," the order said.
Passengers coming to Mumbai from Brazil will be put in compulsory seven-day institutional quarantine.
The order also said that the number of tests will be increased in wards seeing a rise in the number of cases.
The new directives were announced following a video conference of all additional municipal commissioners, zonal joint commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners of all ward offices along with concerned officers.
The Pune administration will impose a fine of Rs 500 on people not wearing masks. Second-time offenders will be charged Rs 1,000, The Times of India reported.
District Collector Rajesh Deshmukh has also ordered the deployment of a flying squad to monitor gatherings at wedding halls and restaurants.
"Instructions have been issued to both the Municipal Corporations (Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad) and the rural areas to strictly implement the guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19 spread. There should be no unnecessary gathering and restrictions will be further imposed if these guidelines are not strictly followed.
"However, no curfew has been imposed in the district," the report quoted Deshmukh as saying.
Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar will reportedly hold a review meeting on the COVID-19 situation in the Pune district on Sunday.
A weekend lockdown will be in effect in the Amravati and Akola districts from 8 pm on Saturday to 7 am on Monday, in a bid to limit crowding in the markets over the weekend, Livemint reported. Only essential services will remain unaffected.
"In view of a spurt in COVID-19 cases, I have decided to impose a weekend lockdown in the district. To avoid any stricter lockdown in the future, I appeal to people to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour," Amravati district collector Shailesh Naval said.
Naval said on weekdays, all establishments, including hotels and restaurants, would stay open only till 8 pm (from earlier 10 pm).
He said during the weekend lockdown all markets and other establishments will remain shut. "Swimming pools and indoor games, too, will remain closed, while only five people will be allowed at religious ceremonies," he said.
The Yavatmal district administration has announced a 10-day lockdown from 18 February.
District Collector MD Singh said the number of COVID-19 cases in the district was increasing since 1 February. Almost 80 to 90 percent of new cases in the district were being reported from Yavatmal, Pandharkawda and Pusad cities, he said.
"We have decided to conduct around 500 tests per day in Yavatmal, Pandharkawda and Pusad municipal corporations. Today we are ordering lockdown in Yavatmal district till 28 February," PTI quoted Singh as saying.
Researchers said they found two new mutations in coronavirus samples from Amravati and Yavatmal districts this week. They added that the mutations are capable of escaping neutralising antibodies.
However, in none of the samples for which genome sequencing was done, the UK, South African or Brazilian strains of the virus were found, he added.
Nagpur authorities also reimposed COVID-19 restrictions amid a surge in cases. On Friday, the district recorded a "major" surge of infections, with 754 people testing positive.
In its fresh order, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has ordered that schools, colleges, and coaching classes will remain shut and that no religious events will be allowed.
It has also imposed a 50 percent restriction on the capacity in wedding halls and said that only 20 people will be allowed in funerals. The directive also said that people under home quarantine will be stamped on their hands.
In the Wardha district, markets will be made to close by 7 pm and eateries will only be open till 9 pm, Hindustan Times reported.
With inputs from PTI
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