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5 Lockdown Threats and a Race Against Virus: Maharashtra's Choices as Cases Press No Brake

Representative image. REUTERS

Representative image. REUTERS

As cases reach a whopping high in many areas of the state, various political leaders have warned, or hinted at an impending lockdown:

Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said on Friday if citizens continued to ignore Covid prevention norms and cases kept increasing, then lockdown in the city may be imposed. Maharashtra is the worst-hit in the country with 2,252,057 confirmed infections and 52,610 deaths till Wednesday, leading all other states and UTs by a massive margin. More than half (57%) of the 128,599 new Covid infections reported across the country in the past week have been in Maharashtra.

Meanwhile, Mumbai reported 1,508 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking its case tally to 3,38,631, while the death toll in the city reached 11,515 with four more fatalities, the civic body said. The cases peaked in September-October, after which there was a decline but since mid-February infections have surged again. For the ninth straight day, the city recorded more than 1,000 cases on Thursday, and reports have attributed 90 per cent of the recent cases from highrises.

As cases reach a whopping high in many areas of the state, various political leaders have warned, or hinted at an impending lockdown:

‘People Will Decide’: Mumbai Mayor

Pedenkar had previously warned – “I want to say this to people that you have to wear masks. For people who don’t follow, there are marshals, police, and railway security to take action. About 95% are following norms and wearing masks but remaining who don’t wear them can cause trouble for others – their family, their neighbours, and community – by spreading the infection. It is up to the people to decide whether they want a lockdown or not.”

She had also said in mid-February that if a lockdown may have to be imposed in Mumbai given the rise in Covid-19 cases “if people don’t follow rules”.

’15 Days’: Uddhav Thackeray

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday said strict lockdown measures would be enforced in some parts of the state to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Thackeray had on February 21 also warned of a “stricter lockdown” apart from the currently-imposed restrictions if Covid-19 rules are flouted. Giving slogan of “wear masks, say no to lockdown”, the CM said that almost 7,000 daily cases are worrying and it would be clear in a fortnight if Maharashtra is witnessing a second wave.

“If the (Covid-19) situation deteriorates, then we have to impose lockdown. Those who want lockdown can roam around without mask while those who don’t want it must wear mask and follow all the rules,” Uddhav had said.

‘Alarming’: Ajit Pawar

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had on Monday described as “alarming” the rise in fresh coronavirus cases in some districts of Maharashtra. He warned of taking some “harsh decisions” and asked people to be prepared.

Speaking to reporters, Pawar had expressed displeasure over people not following the pandemic-appropriate behaviour and violating guidelines.

“I have come across (reports that) people are not following the Covid-19 guidelines which are aimed at checking the spread of the infection. If the situation worsens, we may need to pay a heavy cost for this carelessness. The number (of new cases in the state) is alarming. We have seen that lockdown was imposed in many parts of the world again in view of the second wave of the pandemic,” he had said.

“Harsh decisions can be taken and the people should remain prepared. If certain decisions are not taken in time then we will have to pay a heavy cost later,” he added.

‘Lockdown, if Required’: Rajesh Tope

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope had on Monday called the Covid-19 situation in the state “alarming” and warned that strict action may have to be taken to control cases. Reports said Tope also used the word “lockdown” about some districts, but only “if required”. Tope held people responsible for the worsening coronavirus situation in the state but also admitted complacency on the government’s part.

‘…Reaching a Stage’: VK Paul

The Centre on Thursday said it was “very worried about Maharashtra”. “We are reaching a stage where all those measures (lockdown) are being brought back; it is a matter of serious concern. A word of caution for Delhi and the neighbourhood as well. There is a rise in the positivity rate in Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, and Ghaziabad. Be careful and be watchful. We still have a huge proportion of the vulnerable population,” said VK Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog.

While Pune tops with maximum new cases, Nagpur, Thane, Mumbai, Amravati, Jalgaon, Nashik, and Aurangabad are the other districts of the state with the highest Covid-19 cases in the country, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at a NITI Aayog Covid-19 status presentation.

Present Curbs

Curbs and restrictions in some or other forms are already implemented in Pune (night curfew), Nagpur (near-total lockdown), Aurangabad, Palghar, Thane, Akola, Amravati, with District Collectors authorised to take the call as the local situation warrants.

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first published:March 12, 2021, 16:49 IST