Even as Maharashtra plans to ease the restrictions and resume industrial operations in rural areas from April 20, the state saw a sudden spike of 552 cases on Sunday– the highest rise in a day– taking the total to 4200 cases in the state. 456 of these cases were from Mumbai alone, taking the city’s total of positive cases to 2724. The Sunday surge is expected to impact the doubling rate which had improved in the last few days.
The state on Sunday also reported deaths of 12 Covid-19 patients, taking the toll to 223. Six of the 12 new casualties were from Mumbai, four from Malegaon and one each from Solapur and Ahmednagar. Six of the deceased were aged above 60 years, while five others were aged between 40 and 60 years, according to the report released by the state health department.
State officials attributed the spike in the cases to a delay in verification of tests conducted in Mumbai.
“Some of the test reports added in today’s tally were conducted since April 12 in Mumbai taking the tally high,” the report stated. According to the officials from the health department, the reports of tests conducted by the private laboratories are verified by the government laboratories and this process led to the delay. “It leads to a spiralling of the numbers on the day the verification is done,” an official said.
According to the officials, the doubling rate of the disease had come down to 5.5 days from 3.5 days a few days ago before the Sunday spike. “The sudden rise on Sunday may again disturb the rate,” he added.
Maharashtra has conducted 72,023 tests including 67,673 that tested negative. 507 positive patients have fully recovered. Over 87 thousand people are under home quarantine across the state, while 6,743 patients are in institutional quarantine. The number of containment zones in the state has reduced to 368, most of them being in Mumbai. A total of 23.97 lakh people in the state have been screened for the disease with the help of 6359 teams.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, while announcing relaxation in the lockdown restrictions in rural parts of the state, clarified that the strict restrictions will continue in the containment areas and also in Mumbai and Pune, at least till May 3.
“We are relaxing the restrictions in Green and Orange zones with no and fewer number of Covid-19 patients to a certain extent. The industrial operations in these zones will be allowed, but the employers will have to arrange for the fooding and lodging of the employees. The district borders will, however, remained sealed and no intradistrict activities will be permitted,” he said.
The state government has also directed 10% of its employees to resume work from Monday in a gradual resumption of public services.
Four districts (Nanded, Wardha, Bhandara and Gadchiroli) have no coronavirus patients while positive cases in 18 plus districts are in single digits.
“We expect the industrial units in pharmaceuticals, agricultural sectors to begin operating from Monday. They are expected to follow the standard operating procedures laid down under the lockdown restrictions for their employees. There are 10.26 lakh registered MSMEs in the state, including 4.5 lakh in areas partially exempted from April 20. We want 60% of them to be operationalised by the month end. However, the major industries of all sizes are in MMR and Pune, where the operations are unlikely to begin at least for next few weeks,” said an official from Industries department.
Some of the industries have been directed to operate at 50% of their workforce, while others have been directed to arrange for workers’ food and lodging at the workplace.
The vehicles carrying the workers will have to operate at 30-40% of their capacity in order to maintain social distancing. Shops selling Kirana, sweets, snacks will begin operating from Monday in areas not affected by Covid-19.
“All these activities continue to be banned in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune city and Nagpur city as they have large number of virus cases. We are apprehensive about the pace of industrial and commercial activities in the state and the urban parts will continue to be under restrictions,” said an official from the state government.
Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and Pune city account for 89.4% of all positive cases (3262 of 3648 on Saturday) in Maharashtra and 90.5% of all deaths in the state (191 of 211 on Saturday) were also from these regions. MMR and Pune have less than 25% of state’s population.
The Maharashtra police have registered a whopping 55,393 cases related to violation of lockdown rules since March 22, the day chief minister announced completed lockdown in the state.
The police helpline has received 72,644 calls related to the pandemic, while 11,645 citizens have been arrested over the last four weeks. Of the total offences, 105 were of assault on policemen, while 567 were related to violation of quarantine measures. The police have also booked 15 foreigners for visa-related violations. 241 cases related to the objectionable posts on social media were also registered in the state.