Mumbai: The Maharashtra Government on Saturday found itself barefaced with embarrassment on the sensitive issue of masking. Hours after the additional chief secretary of the public health department, Pradeep Vyas, told the civic and district administration that wearing masks in closed public spaces like trains, buses, cinemas, auditoriums, offices, hospitals, college and schools “is a must”, Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope clarified that the use of masks was not mandatory but an appeal to the public, amid rising Covid cases.
“The state government has not decided to make masks mandatory in the state but is making an appeal for people to use masks when in closed spaces,” said Tope and admitted that a three-page letter by Vyas to district collectors, municipal commissioners and CEOs of zilla parishads and other local civic bodies, with the use of certain words, had caused the confusion.
“Districts like Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Pune and Raigad have seen a small surge in numbers. The word ‘must’ seems to have created confusion,” he said.
Tope’s clarification comes on a day when 1,357 new Covid cases including one death were reported in Maharashtra. There are 5,888 active cases currently in the state.
Vyas had told the civic and district administration that people should be informed about getting themselves tested for Covid if they had fever and signs of respiratory infection. “Further, masking in closed public spaces like trains, buses, cinemas, auditoriums, offices, hospitals, colleges and schools is a must,” he said.
Moreover, Vyas also asked the civic and district administration to increase the pace of inoculation against Covid, as it could significantly reduce hospitalisation and potential deaths. “Communities where vaccine hesitancy is high should be prioritised for awareness campaigns, specifically using interpersonal communication methods. Precaution dose should be promoted and expedited. Covid-19 vaccination cover in the 12-18 age group needs to be improved,” he had said.