The Government of Maharashtra's Mission Begin Again, launched with much fanfare from June 3 for the opening up of economic activities, is now in a tight spot. Instead of unlocking and introducing relaxations, the municipal corporations of Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivli and Solapur have proposed another stringent phase of lockdown, ranging from 7 to 15 days, grappling with rising coronavirus cases and high mortality rates.
Incidentally, these cities have emerged as new epicentres of the pandemic, for want of adequate tracing, tracking, testing and treatment of Covid-19 patients, despite Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's repeated injunctions to follow Mumbai's 'Chase the Virus' and 'Mission Zero' models.
The government's move to put the economy on a roll by allowing some activities to resume has failed to yield the desired result. Instead, the relaxations have led to a rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths, for want of adequate health infrastructure and lack of coordination among multiple agencies.
Thane Municipal Commissioner Dr Vipin Sharma has extended to July 19 the complete lockdown reimposed for the period of July 2-12, as the number of cases have crossed 13,000, with more than 515 deaths. The neighbouring Kalyan-Dombivli civic body too has extended the lockdown until July 19, with restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles and the functioning of shops and other business establishments.
On Friday, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who is also the Pune district guardian minister, announced the necessity for extending the lockdown in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad to July 28, from the earlier July 13, after a marathon meeting with the district administration. This decision comes in the wake of the number of Covid-19 cases crossing 30,000, including 900 deaths in Pune district.
Pawar squarely blamed the irresponsible behaviour of a section of citizens who were moving without wearing masks and causing unnecessary crowding.
Similarly, the textile town of Solapur too will enter another 10-day lockdown phase from the midnight of July 15 midnight or from early morning the following day. The decision was taken by the Solapur district guardian minister Dattatray Bharne, after meeting representatives of political parties and NGOs. Only medical shops and milk delivery will be allowed. However, the civic body will allow citizens to stock up essential commodities from Saturday till Wednesday.
In Solapur, there are more than 2,900 active corona cases, with 297 deaths. Congress legislator Praniti Shinde, who was present at the meeting, confirmed the decision to extend the lockdown. Shiv Sena leader Mahesh Kothe said, people would have to strictly observe self-discipline during the extended lockdown.