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'Not Saying No But...' Maha Health Minister Says Decision on Local Trains on Hold Amid Uptick in Covid-19 Cases

Local train services were suspended for general public for the second time since March 2020 after an increase in coronavirus cases in the city on April 15.

Local train services were suspended for general public for the second time since March 2020 after an increase in coronavirus cases in the city on April 15.

The Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government on Monday why people who had received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine could not be permitted to travel by local trains in Mumbai.

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Tuesday said the decision on relaxation in local trains had been put on hold and the final call would be taken by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray as the state eased some Covid-19 curbs.

“We are not saying no, but the decision for relaxation in local trains has been put on hold. Many aspects have to be considered before taking a call. The CM will discuss it further,” Tope said.

Last month, Maharashtra state cabinet minister Aslam Shaikh said that a decision on allowing people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel on Mumbai local trains unrestricted would be taken soon. Local train services were suspended for general public for the second time since March 2020 after an increase in coronavirus cases in the city on April 15.

The Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government on Monday why people who had received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine could not be permitted to travel by local trains in Mumbai. “What was even the purpose of taking both doses of the vaccine if citizens were expected to stay inside their homes even after taking the anti-COVID-19 jabs," a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni asked.

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Meanwhile, Tope said districts with high growth and Covid positivity rates have been strictly instructed to adhere to Covid-appropriate behaviour. “In flood-affected areas, we have asked authorities for strict implementation of Covid protocols. If we stick to this, increase testing, numbers may come down,” he added.

The Maharashtra government on Monday announced new guidelines for easing of lockdown curbs in those districts where the Covid-19 positivity rate is low. Thackeray, earlier in the day, said that allowing all segments of society in Mumbai local trains would be difficult “in the first phase" as the easing of curbs is being done slowly.

Speaking to reporters in Sangli, some 230 kilometres from Pune, Thackeray, however, appealed for cooperation from people in those areas where relaxing the norms was not possible currently due to the caseload. He said the Covid-19 situation in all such districts, including Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, Raigad, Ratnagiri, and Sindudurg, was a “cause of worry".

The restrictions on movement of people will be applicable from 9 pm to 5 am, as per the order.

The Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) clarified that the orders regarding easing of Covid-19 restrictions are not for Mumbai city, Mumbai suburbs and Thane. It also said 11 other districts where relaxations would not be applicable are — Kolhapur, Pune, Sangli, Satara, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Solapur, Ahmednagar, Beed, Raigad and Palghar. The BMC later in the evening issued orders for Mumbai, stating that malls would remain shut in the city, while restaurants will stay open till 4pm everyday.

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first published:August 03, 2021, 14:14 IST