With parts of Maharashtra witnessing record Covid surge, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday said he could announce stricter curbs in a day or two, and warned of a lockdown if the situation did not improve.
The state government also imposed a week-long 12-hour night curfew in Pune (6 pm-6am) and also ordered the closure of malls, cinema halls, and places of religious worship in the district, which has been the worst-affected in the country in the fresh wave of Covid. Restaurants and bars will remain in open only for delivery and dining won’t be permitted.
Thackeray, in his late evening address, said the state’s health infrastructure would be overwhelmed soon if the cases continued to rise and warned people against flouting Covid rules.
The Maharashtra chief minister, who chaired a meeting with bureaucrats in the evening, painted a grim picture of the Covid-19 situation. He urged rival political parties and critics to come forward and help frontline workers and assist the state in mobilising extra doctors. The state registered 47,827 cases on Friday.
His Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal, on the other hand, ruled out a lockdown and urged the Centre to allow states to undertake mass vaccination. He said the fourth wave was less serious than the previous ones as there are fewer deaths and hospitalisations this time.
Earlier in the day, Pune’s Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao announced a week-long night curfew. City bus service in Pune, too, will remain shut for a week, and industries or essential businesses will be able to hire them, he said.
All public gatherings have been banned and restrictions have been placed on attendees at weddings and funerals.
These curbs came as the Centre expressed grave concern over rising Covid-19 cases in 11 states and Union Territories. Tier II and III cities are recording fast growth in active cases, and the growth rate of 6.8 per cent in March surpassed the previous record of 5.5 per cent in June 2020.
Maharashtra remains the worst affected state and accounts for over 60 per cent of the total cases in the country. Eight of the 10-worst affected districts are in Maharashtra and Pune tops the list with over 64,000 active cases.
On Thursday, representatives from the Retailers Association of India (RAI), NRAI, Shopping Centres Association of India and the Multiplex Association of India came together to petition the Maharashtra government to bring down the out-of-home restrictions in Mumbai. This was done in anticipation of a limited lockdown in the financial capital as Covid-19 cases increased steadily.
Retailers, mall developers, multiplex operators, and restaurant owners argue that limited lockdowns, night curfews, and random rapid antigen testing have hurt their operations over the past month, even as standalone shops, marketplaces, stations and bus-stops continue to remain crowded.
Kumar Rajagopalan of RAI said: “Formal retail spaces have the ability to adhere to hygiene standards and can ensure social distancing, as compared to local markets. However, as soon as the pandemic surges, a new wave of restrictions are applied to formal retail spaces.
These restrictions are creating setbacks for retailers and dampening consumer sentiment.”