A 15-day lockdown is most likely to be imposed in Maharashtra from April 12 (Monday) to break the “chain of infection” in the state, which has been consistently recording an alarming rise in Covid cases and fatalities in the country.
The possibility of a 15-day lockdown was indicated by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday at an all-party meet, which comprised members of coalition parties of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party to garner their support on the lockdown, said media reports. Assuring their support for the lockdown, Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis however asked the government to devise a detailed plan to assuage the fears of people about “job losses and livelihood issues” during the lockdown.
Quoting government sources, Indian Express reported that health department officials have proposed a 15 day-lockdown or until April end. The duration, which had not been completely decided, would be announced on Sunday after Thackeray’s meeting with the state Covid task force. A complete lockdown may come into effect from Monday evening.
At the all-part meet, Fadnavis said that some options have to be provided for the people who will be affected by the lockdown. “The economic concerns cannot be dismissed,” he observed, adding that the government had to offer an alternative to various sectors during the lockdown. “There is massive unrest amongst the people as it relates to their livelihood and business concerns which cannot be ignored,” Fadnavis said.
Shiv Sena leader, Sanjay Raut who completely supported the move for a lockdown pointed out that lockdown is an acceptable measure around the world. According to him, this “no other option but a lockdown” is not just the situation in Maharashtra. “Covid is increasing in the entire country,” he said. Raut also criticised BJP leaders Prakash Javdekar and Devendra Fadnavis for being against the measure, stating, “Corona war is not an Indo-Pak war. No one should politicise this battle against Covid”, NDTV reported.
There was no other solution besides lockdown to save lives, he added, lashing out against Prakash Javdekar for sitting in Delhi and giving them lectures. “He should come here and see. He also has connection with the state… One should not be politicising this,” he added.
Though Maharashtra state and Mumbai city had seen a marginal drop in fresh infections due to the daytime restrictions for five days, night curfews and weekend lockdowns, on Saturday, the state continued to top in registering high cases with 55,411 fresh COVID-19 cases with 9,330 cases in Mumbai alone. While the active caseload in the state was 5.36 lakh, 309 fatalities on Saturday alone. The state is also said to be facing a vaccine shortage.
Senior ministers from Sena, NCP, Congress, and leaders from the opposition Devendra Fadnavis, Pravin Darekar attended the CM’s meeting. All the parties that attended agreed that a lockdown should be imposed if it was required. While Congress minister Ashok Chavan said that Thackeray was drawing up a “roadmap” for the lockdown and that restrictions can be withdrawn once the number of cases start to fall.
However, Nana Patole, state Congress President cautioned not to impose a lockdown like last year because it could lead to huge hardships to people. Though, a 15-day lockdown was being proposed, an official at the meeting told the media that the lockdown may continue until cases drop for five continuous days.
However, media reports suggested that this lockdown will not be as severe going by the weekend lockdown in the state. Several categories of essential workers had gone to work, restaurants were allowed home deliveries and public and private transport remained operational even though there were few takers during the weekend lockdown.
But, hundreds of migrant workers, who sensed that a longer lockdown may be in the offing have already as soon as the restrictions were announced have left for West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, CM Thackeray defended his decision for a lockdown stating that this had become completely necessary to stop the Covid cycle. And, that the COVID-19 cases were rising so fast that a lockdown like situation will automatically arise tomorrow. He assured that his government will try to reduce the economic impact of the lockdown on the poor but it was “very important” to first prevent the rapidly increasing infection and rising cases.
CM Thackeray also added that Fadnavis’s suggestions to ramp up the availability of Remdesivir and oxygen would be followed.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government on Saturday announced new restrictions due to an alarming rise in coronavirus cases, banning most public gatherings and setting limits for attendance at restaurants, theatres, on public transport and functions like weddings and funerals. The new rules will stay in place till April 30.
Uttar Pradesh, which had registered 12,787 cases on Saturday, has also gone in for a night curfew in most of its cities.