Amid a rise in coronavirus cases in parts of the country, wearing of masks at crowded places in Maharashtra could be made mandatory again, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Wednesday, a statement which comes over three weeks after lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions in the state.
Tope, however, stressed that there was no need to panic as the count of active cases in the state still stood below 1,000, while the number of cases per million in the state was far less than other states.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is expected to hold a meeting with the district collectors in the state to discuss the issue with them, he said.
Maharashtra on Tuesday recorded 153 new coronavirus infections, including 102 in state capital Mumbai, which saw its highest one-day rise (on Tuesday) after February 27.
"I feel this decision (about making wearing of masks compulsory in public places) could be taken after the meeting," Tope told reporters here after a virtual meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with state chief ministers on the emerging COVID-19 situation in the country.
He said Delhi has made masks mandatory and is even imposing a fine of Rs 500. Even masks restrictions are back in district of Uttar Pradesh adjoining Delhi, he said.
"The general discussion in the health department is that masks be made compulsory at crowded places," he added.
Maharashtra had done away all the COVID-19 related restrictions on April 2 on the occasion of Gudhi Padwa, the Marathi New Year. However, Tope had then urged people to wear masks voluntarily to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Amid a rise in infections in some parts of the country, Tope said, "Maharashtra in a safe zone. No need to panic." He said the active cases in the state stood at 929 as on Wednesday and the state has seen over 56,000-70,000 active cases at one point of time.
The minister said that currently 25,000 tests are being conducted in the state daily on an average and this number will be ramped up.
Tope said tracking of COVID-19 contacts will be intensified.
Maharashtra doesn't have any new variant of SARS-COV-2, but still genome sequencing will be ramped up in the state, he said.
The health minister said that on the vaccination front, Maharashtra ranks near the national average, but it is behind in the inoculation of children in the age group of 12-15 and 15-17 years.