Two days after Free Press Journal reported that the authorities were willing to extend dine-in timings for hotels and restaurants, the state government made an announcement yesterday to that effect. As per the latest directive, restaurants and hotels can extend dine-in facilities till 10 pm with 50% capacity from August 15 from the current 4 pm cap. Malls too have been given a go-ahead to reopen from August 15 till 10 pm, but only those who have received both doses of anti-Covid vaccines will be allowed to enter. The state government will release SOPs for malls in a day or two.
Cinema halls, theatres, multiplexes (independent as well as those located in malls) will remain shut along with places of worship. The government has directed hotels and restaurants that their staff who have received both doses of Covid vaccines should be allowed to report to work, that too after 14 days of receiving the second dose. Employees are directed to wear face mask at all times, and establishments will have to ensure proper ventilation on their premises.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that from now on, requirement for oxygen will be the criteria for imposition lockdown or restrictions. If the daily requirement of oxygen surges to 700 MT, the government will impose lockdown. “Seven hundred metric tonne oxygen will be needed for 30,000 Covid patients, and in such a situation, the government will impose a lockdown in the state,” he said.
Sherry Bhatia, president of the Hotels and Restaurants Association of Western India, welcomed the decision and said that establishments will ensure they comply with every government directive. “While restaurants are eager to welcome the patrons, we remain committed to serving them in the safest environment,” he said.
Also, AC and non-AC gymnasiums, yoga centres, salons and spas are allowed to function till 10 pm with 50% capacity. The AC establishments are required to install fans and keep the windows open for proper ventilation. Indoor sports have been allowed as well, but players as well as employees of the premises must be vaccinated. Further, two players are allowed at a time for badminton, table tennis, squash, parallel bar and malkhamb. Playgrounds, gardens and waterfronts will remain open as per the timings fixed by the local authorities.
Employees of all government and semi-government banks, railways, and municipal corporation offices have been asked to get fully vaccinated on a priority basis. The government has also allowed private and industrial units to operate with full capacity where vaccination of management and other employees has been completed. The government has also allowed private offices to function 24 hours, but added that it expects all establishments to stagger the working hours in order to avoid crowding. “These offices should continue the present practice of work from home if possible,” the government said.
Curbs have been lifted on the number of guests at weddings in enclosed areas as well as open spaces. Weddings are now allowed in enclosed areas with 50% capacity of the area, whereas a maximum of 200 people are permitted in open areas, that too not exceeding 50% capacity of the area.
Inter-state travel is allowed and RT-PCR test for citizens to enter Maharashtra is not needed, the government said. However, those without vaccination will have to undergo RT-PCR test and a negative report not later than 72 hours of the test is needed. Restrictions on political, religious, social and cultural events, election rallies and morchas will continue.
Lockdown if daily usage of oxygen crosses 700 MT
State Health Minister Rajesh Tope reiterated that the state government will be forced to impose a complete lockdown if the usage of oxygen crosses 700 metric tonnes per day. “We don’t know how much oxygen will be available from the Centre if the need arises,” he said.
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