Mumbai: The Maharashtra government, in a bid to prevent the coronavirus outbreak from entering the third lethal stage of community transmission, on Friday announced a near shut down of the India's financial and commercial capital.
All private offices and non-essential goods shops in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nagpur will be closed from midnight Friday until March 31.
However, the railways, bus and metro services have been spared for a while.
The government has also excluded institutions and establishments regulated by the RBI, including banks, from the 'shut down' directive.
The government offices will function with 25% staff.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who had public health minister Rajesh Tope and chief secretary Ajoy Mehta by his side, said in his address on social media that only essential services, including medical, grocery and milk stores, as well as banks, will be allowed to stay open.
''If these stringent measures too fail to curb the spread of the virus, the government may be forced to halt public transport like buses and trains to restrict people’s movement,'' he warned.
He said the decision has been taken to reduce crowding and to maintain social distancing. Thackeray's announcement came after the number of coronavirus patients surged to 53, including one death in the state.
Minister of School Education Varsha Gaikwad has, meanwhile, announced cancellation of state school board examinations of Class 1 to; however, she clarified that the examination of Class X will take place as per the time table.
''All those who feel that work from home is not possible, we have to forcibly shut them. We are left with no alternative. It is essential to stay at home for us to stay alive.
For us, the health givers are fighting a brutal war,” he said. He however, asked the non-essential goods shop owners and private sector not to cut wages of employees during the shutdown. "Crises will come and go but don't forget your humanity," said Thackeray.
"The people have positively responded to an appeal to avoid crowding but if we find there is still thronging of trains and buses, we will take the harsh but bitter decision to shut them down," said Thackeray. He further announced that the attendance in government offices will be scaled down to 25 per cent.
"The whole idea behind closure of offices is to reduce the crowd," he averred. Thackeray said the people should understand that this is not a holiday time for merry making but it is their duty to stay put at home
. ''But I am sure, Maharashtra’s people are responsible. They will fight this battle by staying at home,” he added. Thackeray's appeal to PM Modi