The Centre on Wednesday expressed ‘grave concern’ over the piling up of COVID-19 infections in Maharashtra and Punjab as part of the second wave of the pandemic.
The country which recorded 47,262 fresh cases on Wednesday, reported 275 fatalities, the highest in 24 hours this year.
“Two states are of grave concern, that have shown a recent surge in cases – Maharashtra, that reported more than 28,000 cases in the last 24 hours and Punjab, that is reporting huge number of cases in proportion to its population,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said during a media briefing.
Other states which are reporting an alarming spike in infections are Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Lately Chhattisgarh and Chandigarh have also displayed a surge in number of cases, Bhusan said.
The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday said that 771 cases of coronavirus variants have been detected across 18 states – 736 of UK variant, 34 of South African variant and one of the Brazilian variant.
Logging in 28,699 fresh cases on Wednesday, Maharashtra is the worst-affected state in the country.
“The top 10 districts where maximum active cases are concentrated are – Pune, Nagpur, Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad, Bengaluru Urban, Nanded, Jalgaon and Akola,” Bhusan said.
The state government has imposed restrictions including lockdowns and night curfews to break the chain of the virus.
Nagpur will be under lockdown till March 31. While shops will remain open till 4 pm, restaurants will function till 7 pm. Religious places will remain closed.
Lockdowns are being imposed on Nanded and Parbhani areas from March 24 onwards. While it will be lifted in Nanded on April 3, the same will be operational in Parbhani till March 31.
In view of a spurt in infections from January-end, the Punjab government has imposed a blanket ban on all public gatherings and social functions in 11 vulnerable districts, barring funerals and weddings.
The government has also imposed night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am in the affected districts of Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Mohali, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, SBS Nagar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ropar and Moga.
Cinema halls will function with 50 per cent capacity, and more than 100 people will not be allowed at the same time into a mall. The government has also ordered schools and colleges, with the exception of medical and nursing colleges, to be closed till March 31.
With prominent cities like Indore and Bhopal recording 300-400 new cases every day, the government plans to impose lockdowns on Sunday in two to three cities to curb any further spread of the infection.
The state on March 21 had imposed a one-day lockdown in Bhopal, Indore and Jabalpur, where schools and colleges have been shut down till March 31.
The state reported 1,445 new cases on Wednesday including 886 from Bengaluru Urban alone. On Tuesday, the daily tally was higher at 2010 new cases. Other districts reporting rise in infections are Kalaburagi, Mysuru, Bidar, Dakshina Kannada, and Tumkur.
Telling people that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has begun in the state, Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar urged them to avoid large gathering and follow COVID-19 protocols.
Besides travellers from Maharashtra and Kerala, the government has also made it mandatory for those coming from Punjab to get a negative RT-PCR test to gain entry into the southern state.
The government, however, has clarified that higher education institutions including universities, colleges and polytechnic institutions among others will operate under strict vigilance.
The state recorded a daily spike of 1,730 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.
The government has suspended classes in schools and colleges in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Junagadh and Gandhinagar, till April 10.
The government has also made a negative RT-PCR test must for those travelling from Maharashtra.