COVID-19 in Maharashtra: CM Uddhav Thackeray bats for lockdown, final decision likely today

In the wake of galloping COVID 19 cases and the constraints on health infrastructure, the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday made a strong case for a total lockdown for at least 8 days and thereafter all the activities can be opened up slowly. On the other hand, the state Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, Public Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas and Medical Director Dr Tatyarao Lahane strongly advocated a lockdown for 14 days in a serious bid to break the virus chain. ‘’The number of patients is increasing so fast that if we do not decide on a lockdown today, a situation like a lockdown will automatically arise tomorrow,’’ said Thackeray.

The health department has pointed out that the number of COVID 19 active cases will reach around 11 lakh by the end of April from the present 536682 cases. However, with the present rate of positivity and spike, the state will need 50,000 Oxygen beds in the days to come.

Interestingly, the Maha Vikas Aghadi partners including Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress and the BJP leaders, who were present at the online meeting chaired by Thackeray, by and large supported the lockdown but with a rider that the government should not announce it randomly but after making some financial position especially for the working class and poor families.

Thackeray ultimately intervened and assured that the decision on lockdown will be announced in a day or two after his meeting with the Task Force on the coronavirus pandemic which is slated for Sunday. The administration on Sunday will present to Thackeray an action plan on ramping up the bed capacity, Oxygen and Remdesivir supply and the additional ventilators amid rising COVID 19 patients. Besides, the finance department will submit a note on the financial package that can be worked out for the poor and working class to deal with the lockdown.

A senior officer told Free Press Journal, “The government has urged the Centre for its aid in the additional Oxygen supply. Of the state Oxygen production capacity of 1,200 metric tonnes, 960 tonne is already supplied for medical use. The state has urged the Centre to make available Oxygen from Bhilai, Rourkela and Haldia but for that the government will have to strengthen the supply chain. The Food and Drug Administration will be asked to check whether the agreements signed by the Remdesivir for exports can be cancelled and that quantity can be supplied in the state.’’

Today’s meeting was attended by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil, Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, Public Work Minister Ashok Chavan, Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, leader of opposition in the state assembly Devendra Fadnavis, leader of opposition in the state council Pravin Darekar and state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil.

‘’If the Corona cycle is to be stopped, strict restrictions will have to be imposed, albeit temporarily. We have to prioritize saving lives first. If this is a health emergency, the priority should be the health and well-being of the citizens,’’ said Thackeray.

‘’It is the role of all to ensure that the poor and the working class do not suffer while imposing strict restrictions. Of course, it should be considered and done, but it is very important to prevent the rapidly increasing infection and morbidity,’’ said Thackeray. He insisted that the decision should be unanimous.

‘’My appeal to all party leaders is to lend their support to whatever decision is taken with the health of the people of the state in mind,’’ he said.

Thackeray also stressed upon the need to increase vaccination and said the younger generation also has to be inoculated.

Fadnavis said the government should make provision for the poor and working class before announcing the lockdown. ‘’ Declare the state government’s planning to deal with the lockdown before the people. The opposition will cooperate with the state government.

Chavan also made a strong case for government assistance for the working class and needy people. He suggested that the state government should urge the Centre to announce a moratorium for loan repayment.

State Congress chief Nana Patole said the lockdown decision should be done after proper planning and not in a hasty manner.

Pawar also said NCP will support the government’s decision on lockdown. Patil insisted that the state government should first provide financial assistance to the weaker sections and then go for a lockdown or additional curbs.

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