Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray

Mumbai: To prevent the spread of Covid-19 and its new variant, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday extended the surveillance, containment and caution guidelines till January 31, 2021. However, the government order is silent on the reopening of schools and colleges and also on the full-scale resumption of Mumbai suburban trains.

According to Maharashtra Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope, full-scale resumption of train services will depend on the COVID-19 trend in the new year. Currently, only certain categories of commuters, including those providing essential services, and women, can travel by local trains in the Mumbai region after obtaining a special pass.

"If (Covid-19) cases are not spiralling, a decision on resumption of suburban services (for all) will be taken. The government is keeping a close watch on the situation," he said.

Amid concerns over UK returnees testing positive for the new Covid-19 variant, Tope said so far no patient had been detected in the state. He told The Free Press Journal, ‘‘The government is keeping a close vigil and has stepped up testing at the airports. Of the 43 passengers who have returned to Maharashtra from the UK, not a single one has tested positive for the new coronavirus strain.’’ Since December 23, the state government has ordered an extensive survey of passengers who have come from the Middle East, Europe and South Africa.

The order on the extension of the lockdown was issued by Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar who explained that he was doing so under Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, read with all other enabling provisions of The Disaster Management Act, 2005.

He added that the activities already allowed and permitted from time to time shall continue. ‘‘The activities already allowed and permitted from time to time shall continue and all earlier orders shall be aligned with this order and shall remain in force up to 31st January, 2021,’’ the order said.

The Maharashtra government had earlier imposed a night curfew in all municipal areas of the state. The curfew is in place from December 22 from 11pm to 6am and will remain in force till January 5. On Monday, the state government had urged people to refrain from venturing out of their homes to usher in the New Year.

Hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars in Maharashtra will remain open till 11 PM on December 31. The gathering of five or more people at public places is prohibited, but there are no restrictions on people stepping out for the purpose of buying medicines and visiting friends and relatives after 11pm, in view of the night curfew.

Local authorities have been delegated powers to ensure that the Covid-19 related curbs are enforced at hill stations where New Year revellers gather in large numbers.

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Free Press Journal