Maharashtra to unlock fully by November: Tope

· About four lakh restaurants, hotels and bars in Maharashtra have been reopened under Unlock 5.0.

· Schools, colleges, religious places and gyms are expected to reopen after Diwali

· Local trains in Pune division have been allowed to restart their services

· Restaurants and permit rooms have reopened with 50% capacity

Looks like our lockdown laments will finally end. People of Maharashtra can expect lifting of Covid-19 lockdown norms and reopening of almost all activities by November. “Maharashtra will be unlocked fully by November. We will have to live with coronavirus. The issue of lockdown is no more. Let's hope that schools, religious places and gyms will be reopened in the state in phases, and the whole of Maharashtra will be unlocked by November. The corona vaccine has yet to be produced so we have to follow certain rules, regulations and protocols including face masks, sanitizers and public distancing which will be a new normal,’’ said Minister of Public Health Rajesh Tope.

This is for the first time Tope has revealed the state government’s stand on complete unlocking the state. He, however, told Free Press Journal, “The final decision about the complete unlocking of Maharashtra will be taken by the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray as it is his prerogative. I have shared my view with the Chief Minister on unlocking. About four lakh restaurants, hotels and bars in the state have been reopened under Unlock 5.0. The schools, colleges, religious places and gyms are expected to restart after Diwali.’’ His statement comes at a time when the progressive Covid 19 cases have crossed 15 lakh with more than 40,000 deaths since March.

Tope said the state government under the MissionBeginAgain has gradually relaxed lockdown norms allowing reopening of certain activities. “Commuters under certain categories are allowed to travel in suburban railways. It is expected the frequency of these services will be further increased. The intra state railway trains services will soon be launched,” he added.

As per the Unlock 5.0 guidelines, there are no restrictions on oxygen production and transport while the frequency of suburban trains have been increased in Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Local trains in Pune division have been allowed to restart their services. The restaurants and permit rooms have reopened with 50% capacity.

However, schools, colleges, coaching classes, educational institutions, cinema halls and swimming pools continue to remain shut.

Meanwhile, Tope said the government will cap the rate of RT-PCR test in private laboratories at Rs 800 from the present level of Rs 1,200. ‘’There are in all 500 laboratories comprising 400 government and 100 laboratories who conduct RT-PCR tests. These tests are free in government labs but private labs currently charge Rs 1,200 per test which will now be brought down to Rs 800 per patient. The government will soon issue notification,’’ he noted.

Tope recalled that the state government also proposes to cap the rates of N95 masks which are available in the market at Rs 150 to 200 against its production cost of Rs 12. ‘’ The government is of the view that it should be sold as per the MRP at Rs 19. The department has already set up a committee to recommend on capping the rates of N95 masks,’’ he said.

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