“People have become carefree. It is for the people to decide if they want a lockdown or want to continue living with the small restrictions like now,” said Thackeray, while directing local administrations to crack down on citizens and establishments that are found violating Covid-19 norms and standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Health minister Rajesh Tope reiterated that Maharashtra is opening up for various activities, but following Covid-19 protocol and increased vaccination is the way forward against the backdrop of a slight rise in active cases in Vidarbha, Marathwada and in metros. “We are not considering any lockdown at the moment, but people have to cooperate and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour as that is the only way forward,” Tope said.
In Mumbai, mayor Kishori Pednekar issued a lockdown warning. “The number of patients is increasing in the city. While local trains have resumed operations for all and several other activities have begun, people should continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing and use sanitizers,” she said. “But, it has been observed that people are not following the norms. Schools were to open in the coming days, but we are reconsidering it now. We can head towards a lockdown and it is in the hands of citizens itself to avoid it.”
With Maharashtra reporting a steady rise in cases in the last few days, Thackeray and his deputy Ajit Pawar held a review meeting with all municipal commissioners and district administrations who expressed concern about several restaurants and wedding halls not following the SOPs. Restaurants in the state are allowed to operate with 50% occupancy, and there is a cap on the number of wedding guests.
“Many guests remove their masks once inside the hall. Also, we have suggested that police permission be made mandatory for weddings so that they can do a head count of guests,” suggested a district collector.
Thackeray instructed the local administrations to conduct surprise checks on restaurants and wedding halls and in case of any violations, take strict action like cancel the licence of the establishment. “Representatives of different associations who were in touch with the government seeking reopening of their sectors should be called again to ensure that the SOPs are being followed,” he added.
The CM also directed the district authorities to not give permission for public rallies, protests and processions in case norms are not being followed. “Areas where several cases have been reported should be marked as containment zones and restrictions should be implemented,” he added.
Districts have been asked to ramp up testing and trace 20 contacts for each Covid positive patient. Thackeray also asked districts to conduct structural audits of the field hospitals that were not being used since the last few months due to a drop in cases. Disinfection of public places, toilets, bus stands and parks should be carried out, he added.
(Inputs by Richa Pinto in Mumbai & Nisha Nambiar in Pune)