Amid the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases, a lockdown is imminent in Maharashtra. On Sunday, the state had set a new record and reported 63,294 new COVID-19 cases. This was the highest single-day spike in the state since the pandemic outbreak last year. The total number of active cases is 5,65,587. Besides, 349 deaths were recorded in the day, taking the death toll to 57,987. Moreover, the recovery rate in the state has also dropped to 81.65%.
In many places across the state, the health care infrastructure is proving to be inefficient and even falling short to meet the needs of the rising positive cases. There is a shortage of oxygen and oxygen beds, ventilators, Remdesivir (a key anti-viral drug in the fight against COVID-19, especially in adult patients with severe complications), and even vaccines.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's decision. The Free Press Journal has learnt that a 15-day lockdown is likely to be imposed from midnight of April 14 till April 30. However, public transport, especially buses, trains and planes will not be suspended; nonetheless, people will be discouraged from undertaking unnecessary travel and prodded to work from home.
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 COVID-19 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 overuse 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.”
The lockdown guidelines 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-19 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.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope has said that an appropriate decision regarding the lockdown will be taken after April 14. "Duration of the lockdown and how to handle its economic fallout was discussed during today's (Sunday) meeting. The task force is of the view that the prevailing coronavirus situation in the state is such that a lockdown is required," the Minister said.