Mumbai: Notwithstanding the fall in daily Covid-19 cases, the Maharashtra Cabinet on Thursday unanimously decided to extend the statewide lockdown beyond June 1 while easing some restrictions in districts where there has been a continuous decline in the number of cases and the positivity rate. The government intends to lift the lockdown in a phased manner. The cabinet has authorised the Chief Minister to take a final decision based on the recommendations of the state’s Covid taskforce, led by Dr Sanjay Oak.
The cabinet decision is important, as the rate of growth in Covid cases exceeds the state average rate of 0.47 per cent in 21 of its 36 districts, while the weekly positivity rate in 14 districts is more than the state average rate of 10.46 per cent.
“Although the growth rate is slowly declining overall, the number of patients is increasing rapidly in 10 to 15 districts and the risk of mucormycosis or black fungus is also rising. Therefore, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has directed not to lift the lockdown at one go but provide relaxations in few restrictions after June 1,” said the Chief Minister’s Office in a statement.
Senior ministers said the government was likely to announce a relaxation in restrictions presently applicable to shops and other establishments, starting June 1. “The government may allow non-essential shops to reopen and function, say till 1pm or 2pm, while it may revise the timings for essential shops. However, general public will not be able to commute in the Mumbai suburban railway trains. Besides, hotels, restaurants and permit rooms will continue to remain shut, to avoid virus infection, especially when the taskforce has projected the possibility of a third wave of Covid-19,” said a minister.
Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope said, the government would, in the next two days, issue guidelines on the extension of lockdown and the relaxation of some restrictions. “The cabinet took a stand against complete lifting of the lockdown, especially when there has been an increase in cases and high positivity in 18 districts in the red zone. At the same time, the cabinet also discussed at length the relaxations of some curbs,” he noted.
The cabinet decision comes days after traders have demanded allowing the reopening of non-essential shops and increasing the timings of both essential and non-essential shops. They have also sought a slew of waivers from the government in order to stay afloat.
The cabinet’s decision is crucial, as the state reported 21,273 fresh cases, 425 deaths and 1.63 per cent fatality rate. There are 3,01,401 active cases and 92,225 deaths as on date.