Maharashtra opens eateries today, but fear of COVID surge looms large

• Covid-19 cases increased for a few weeks after inter-district movement was allowed from September. The state expects similar rise after restaurants reopen and more people are allowed to travel by local trains • A good number of restaurants are unlikely to reopen on Day 1 as they face severe labour shortage

The decision to open restaurants and hotels till late in the evening has been taken as part of the state government's 'Mission Begin Again' campaign

Restaurants opened across Maharashtra on October 5 with the state administration asking the proprietors and food lovers to strictly adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The Maharashtra government has reasons to be on guard. The number of daily cases in the state for the last one week has been under 20,000, but the health department is anticipating a possible surge in infections in the coming weeks as people set out to eat.

The number of cases rose for a few weeks after inter-district movement was allowed from September 1. The health department expects similar rise over the next few days after restaurants reopen and local trains are opened up in Mumbai for more people.

According to Maharashtra government’s Covid-19 safety guidelines:

1.       Hotels, food courts and restaurants can operate from Monday between 8am and 10pm at 50 per cent of their seating capacity.

2.       Customers should be screened at the entry point for coronavirus symptoms such as high temperature, cough, and cold. Only asymptomatic customers will be allowed inside.

3.       Putting on face masks will be mandatory, except while eating.

4.       Customers must follow social distancing while waiting for service.

5.       Customers should ne encouraged to pay via digital mode to avoid contact.

6.       Hotels should keep try to avoid AC, instead keep windows and doors open.

7.       Hotels should avoid offering raw food recipes in menu and stick to cooked food.

8.       Buffet service is strictly not permitted.

9.       Cutlery should be sanitized on a routine basis and used plates dishes, glasses etc should be sent for cleaning immediately.

10.   Restaurant owners should wear high grade masks like N-95.

11.   In Mumbai, dabbawallahs (tiffin carriers) will also be allowed to travel by local trains after procuring QR code passes from the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s office.

However, a good number of restaurants are unlikely to reopen on Day 1 as they face severe labour shortage. Most of their staff went back to their native places during and immediately after lockdown due to lack of work.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Maharashtra reported 13,702 fresh COVID-19 cases, which pushed the state’s infection tally to 14,43,409, the health department said. The death toll in the state rose to 38,084 with 326 more deaths, it said.

The state’s recovery rate is 79.64 per cent, while the fatality rate is 2.64 per cent. A total of 22,09,696 people are in home quarantine and 27,939 in institutional quarantine.

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Pune district recorded 2,343 new cases on Sunday, the highest in the state for the day. A total of 41 people died. Nashik recorded 1,034 cases and eight deaths; Nagpur recorded 917 infections and 26 deaths; Ahmednagar 639 cases and 7 deaths and Sangli 472 cases and 14 deaths.

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