Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra Government is set to announce a 15-day lockdown from the midnight of April 14 till 11.59 pm, April 30, in a serious bid to push its efforts to break the virus chain.

However, the government does not propose to suspend public transport, especially buses, trains and planes; nonetheless, people will be discouraged from undertaking unnecessary travel and prodded to work from home. The final decision will come within a day or two, as Gudi Padwa is on April 13 and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s birth anniversary is on April 14. There is a possibility of a state cabinet meeting on Wednesday and after its go-ahead, the lockdown will begin.

The lockdown guidelines and SOPs are likely to be issued by night time on Monday or Tuesday.The government proposes to use the lockdown period to further strengthen and expand the present health infrastructure, with a focus on its optimal use, to take care of the rising number of Covid patients in the state. The focus will be on increasing bed capacity, ramping up the number of testing laboratories, procurement of more oxygen from within and outside the state and streamlining the supply of Remdesivir, ventilators and medical equipment. More importantly, the government will further increase the pace of vaccination, so that 6 to 7 lakh people can be inoculated every day.

The government will work out a relief package for the poor to alleviate their sufferings caused by the lockdown.

This was the outcome of the three successive meetings held by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday with the taskforce on Covid 19, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and senior bureaucrats. Thackeray and his ministers are expected to meet with bureaucrats yet again on Monday, to finalise the financial package to be announced for poor and weaker sections. They will discuss the economic consequences of the lockdown.

A senior bureaucrat told The Free Press Journal, “By and large there is unanimity that a lockdown is essential, as the health infrastructure is getting exhausted amid rising corona patients across the state. It may begin on April 14 midnight and will be in place till April 30. The government, in consultation with the taskforce, will prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) to address medical stress and also for citizens to strictly follow Covid protocols. Taskforce members have suggested that oxygen use will have to be optimised, to avoid its over use especially in private hospitals. The government has already issued orders on Sunday to earmark 1,200 metric tonnes of oxygen produced in Maharashtra for medical use. The Centre has allocated about 800 metric tonnes from Bokaro, Bhilai, Rourkela and Haldia but daily transportation won’t be possible due to logistic constraints.”

Further, it was suggested that the asymptomatic patients should be sent to hotels and they should not be admitted in hospitals as this would free up beds for the symptomatic and serious patients.

“Taskforce members urged the CM to stop political interference in bed allocation. CM hailed the BrihanMumbai Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Chahal’s initiative for the allocation of beds through war rooms and its 24x7 functioning. The war room in-charge will work for 12 hours and his successor will work for another 12 hours. Covid reports will be available to the patients in 12 hours,” said the bureaucrat.

Further, the government, in a bid to address manpower constraints, would deploy the undergraduate students. “Besides, CSIR suggested that in three weeks, they could instal ‘Rapidly Deployable Hospitals’ to accommodate rising patients. In addition, Railways will be requested to dispatch some coaches which can be used for isolation purposes,” he said.

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