The Maharashtra government issued orders extending the Covid-19 induced lockdown for another month, till midnight of November 30, with no further relaxations annou-nced on Thursday. The state is yet to reopen places of worship, swimming pools, cinema halls and theatres, and allow social, political, sports, entertainment, religious, academic and cultural functions.
State officials, however, said the government will widen scope of Mission Begin Again — a staggered plan to unlock activities — in the coming month. The government has already on Wednesday written to Western Railway and Central Railway to let all commuters use Mumbai’s local train services.
Thursday’s order, signed by Maharashtra chief secretary Sanjay Kumar, said what’s already allowed and open will continue to stay that way. Earlier this month, the state let restaurants and bars open at 50% capacity, all women were given permission to travel on suburban trains during non-peak hours, and gymnasiums were allowed to operate.
“We have reopened most activities… But we have to keep in mind what has happened in France and the United States (US), where there is a second wave. Both countries are recording 50,000-100,000 cases daily. We are not saying such a wave will come to India and Maharashtra, but we have to remain alert,” said state health minister Rajesh Tope, adding that the government’s primary concern is that another wave of Covid-19 infections in Maharashtra could burden the poor health infrastructure in the state.
Maharashtra on Thursday recorded 5,902 fresh infections, taking the state’s tally to 1,666,668, with 127,603 active cases.
Thursday is the 12th consecutive day when the state reported below 10,000 fresh cases. Maharashtra also reported 156 fatalities on Thursday, pushing up the toll to 43,710. The case fatality rate of the state stands at 2.62%. Mumbai, meanwhile, reported 1,120 new cases, taking the city’s tally to 255,360. It also reported 33 fatalities, taking its toll up to 10,229. Mumbai has 19,082 active cases.
Tope said the government does intend to reopen other activities, but with caution. “Some activities are still not allowed like places of worship, political functions and local trains for general public. Everyone in the government wants to open these activities, but there is concern that if we get a high number of cases then our health infrastructure will be burdened. There is a huge difference between our country and European nations and America, therefore we must tread cautiously,” he said.
Meanwhile, the positivity rate in the state in the past two weeks has dipped against what it was in the second fortnight of September. Between September 15 and 30, Maharashtra’s positivity rate was 20.97%, while it has dropped to 11.24% between October 15 and October 29. Which effectively means, for every 100 samples tested, 11 people test positive. For three consecutive days, the state’s positivity rate has been under 10% as of Thursday. So far, Maharashtra has tested 8,837,133 samples and has an overall positivity rate of 18.86%. In the past 24 hours, 68,254 samples were tested across the state.
Senior health department officials said the slowdown in spread of infection is a good sign, but further relaxations coupled with people’s movement during the festive season could reverse the trend. “The next two incubation cycles will be crucial. If the rate of infection remains around the current percentage then we woukld have successfully dealt with the pandemic. People will have to remain cautious; self-discipline in sanitation and wearing masks is needed,” said an official, on condition of anonymity.
Maharashtra also reported 7,883 recoveries on Thursday, taking the tally of recovered patients to 1,494,809. The recovery rate of the state stands at 89.69%