All COVID curbs to be lifted in Maharashtra from Apr 2; no mask compulsion
After more than two years, all pandemic-related curbs, including the mandatory wearing of masks will be lifted in Maharashtra from April 2, the Maharashtra government announced on Thursday (March 31).
The health minister Rajesh Tope told reporters that the decision to lift all the restrictions was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
From Gudhi Padwa, the Marathi New Year, which falls on April 2 this year, all COVID-19 restrictions under the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act will be withdrawn, Tope said, adding that wearing masks would be voluntary. With the lifting of norms, Gudhi Padwa processions can take place without any restrictions this year, added Tope said.
CM Thackeray, meanwhile, in a separate statement cautioned people that though the restrictions are going to be lifted, it is advisable to maintain social distancing, wear mask and take anti-coronavirus vaccines. Tope told reporters that in the US, UK and many countries in Europe, COVID-19 controls like the compulsory wearing of masks have been removed. In Maharashtra, it has been made voluntary, he said.
Replying to a query whether the state government was taking a risk by lifting the mask mandate, the health minister said that the CM and others (cabinet colleagues) have consulted the state task force on COVID-19 and the health department before taking this decision.
Notably, on Wednesday (March 30), Tope had said that looking at the rise in coronavirus cases in many countries, it would not be right to take the risk of doing away with the mask mandate in Maharashtra.
The state government has already eased restrictions on movement and gathering as new cases started declining after the third wave, driven by the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV2, abated by the end of January. According to the health ministry data, India has recorded a total of 4,24,89,004 coronavirus cases so far, of which Maharashtra, a state with a high urban density, saw 77,25,120, the highest in the country.
West Bengal too has announced the withdrawal of COVID-19 related restrictions on Thursday.