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Fresh Restrictions in Several States as New Cases Start Rising

Fresh Restrictions in Several States as New Cases Start Rising

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Mar 19: Additional restrictions including imposition and extending time of night curfew and curbs on public functions are being re-imposed in various states as the Coronavirus seemed to be returning with vengeance making the prime minister Narendra Modi’s apprehension of a possible second surge a reality.

The authorities, however, maintained that there was no cause for panic since vaccination had also started in full swing and advised the people to rigorously observe the Covid-19 protocols to arrest further spread of the pandemic.

Maharashtra was the worst-hit recording even higher number of daily cases on Friday than it suffered during the peak pandemic period of September, last year, while India also recorded the highest single day spike in 100 days. Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat and several other states reported higher number of cases than they recorded in the whole of February.

Maharashtra reported its highest one-day spike since March 2020 with 25,833 patients testing positive on Thursday. These figures surpassed the previous high of 24,886 new cases, reported on 11 September 2020, when the pandemic had peaked in the state.

The new cases took the caseload to 23,96,340, the state health department said, and come just days after a central team report said that the state was at beginning of a second wave. The chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has asked divisional commissioners to ensure Covid-19 restrictions were implemented strictly in view of the spike in the number of cases.

In a virtual meeting, Thackeray said even though the state was witnessing a steep spike in the number of daily cases, the vaccination drive has also gained momentum.

“In view of the highest number of cases on Thursday since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, the district administration should speed up contact tracing and implementation of restrictions and safety protocols,” he said.

According to the new order issued by the state government on Friday, all theatres and auditoriums have been asked to operate at 50% capacity, and no one will be allowed to enter without proper wearing of masks. The order also said that theatres, auditoriums and drama halls won’t be utilised for any religious, social, cultural or political gatherings.

All private offices – except health and essential services – have been asked to function at 50% capacity. In case of government offices, the head of the office can take a decision regarding attendance by adhering to all protocols, the Maharashtra government said in its order.

“The manufacturing sector, however, can function at full capacity. However it is advised that the workforce be reduced to ensure adequate social distancing on the production floor. For the purpose of maintaining social distancing, manufacturing units may be allowed to increase the working shifts as approved by the local authorities,” said the order.

The worsening situation in Maharashtra comes in the backdrop of a national resurge with India recording 35,871 new cases in the last 24 hours till 8 A.M. on Friday, the highest single day rise in over 100 days taking the cumulative total tally to 1,14,74,605 cases so far, the union health ministry report said.

Besides Maharashtra, various other state governments have also started implementing measures to curb the infections on war footing. The Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh extended night curfew in the state by two hours, Gujarat in some of the cities extended night curfew by further one more hour from two hours it had increased on Thursday while Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the government upped its daily target for inoculations to 1.25 lakh people.

Kejriwal also appealed to the Centre to relax vaccination guidelines, the strict categorisation of beneficiaries, in particular. He said if the Centre allowed state governments to inoculate everyone over 18 years of age, the “entire population of Delhi could be immunised in three months”.

In Uttar Pradesh too, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed officials to increase the number of the RT-PCR tests to 50 percent of the daily count. These numbers, however, are still behind the 70 percent the prime minister set the target for the states during his conclave with various chief ministers earlier this week. Taking cognisance of the spiralling situation, Modi had also warned that quick and decisive action was the only way to avoid a nationwide outbreak.

He had also flagged the issue of vaccine wastage, because of improper planning of distribution. The prime minister urged states to open more vaccination centres to minimise wastage.

Shockingly in Maharashtra, Nagpur has overtaken the mega city Mumbai in the number of daily cases. Nagpur city on the second consecutive day recorded the highest number of new cases at 2,926, followed by 2,877 in Mumbai and 2,791 in Pune city.

While Maharashtra’s daily figures touched a new high on Thursday, the state also recorded the highest recoveries of 2021 with 12,764 patients being discharged following treatment. The total recoveries now stands at 21,75,565 while there are 1,66,353 active cases in the state. Maharashtra also recorded 58 deaths, taking the toll to 53,138 on Thursday.

Mumbai’s case tally increased to 3,52,851 and eight deaths took the fatality count to 11,559. Mumbai division reported 5,190 new cases and 14 deaths. On 7 October 2020, Mumbai had reported 2,848 new cases, the highest since the first infection in the city came to light on 11 March, 2020.

Meanwhile, the highly-populated slum area of Dharavi in Mumbai also recorded its highest spike in cases. In the last 24 hours, 30 new cases were recorded, which is the highest one-day spike since September, the BMC said.

Acknowledging that new cases in Delhi had been rising in the last few days, Kejriwal, at a virtual press conference, asserted it was not a matter to be worried about. He added that the capacity of daily inoculation in Delhi will be augmented from 30,000-40,000 to 1.25 lakh.

He also said the number of vaccination centres will be doubled to 1,000 from about 500 at present spanning both government and private facilities. The closing time for vaccination would be extended and would be done from 9 am to 9 pm from 9 am to 5 pm currently and accordingly an executive order was issued later in the day.

“I also want to appeal to the Central Government to provide some relaxation in the guidelines for the expansion of vaccination centres. We will be writing to the Centre to relax a few parameters. We assure them that we will be careful, and take all precautions.

“This relaxation will help us in opening new centres. Also, many of the existing centres are functioning 24 hours a day. We will have more centres functioning round-the-clock,” he said.

In Punjab, the chief minister said the Corona situation was “critical” and warned people of stringent measures if they don’t follow COVID appropriate behaviour. “I won’t be easy on the people. People may not like it, but it’s my duty,” the chief minister said.

The Punjab government announced a fresh set of measures to curb the Covid-19 spread. Under the revised guidelines, the government decided to extend the night curfew from nine to 11 such districts where the cases of infection are rising.

In the 11 worst-hit districts, all social activities except funerals, cremations and weddings have been prohibited. In permitted social gatherings only 20 persons are allowed. These districts are Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Mohali, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, SBS Nagar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ropar and Moga.

For now, the stringent measures will only be applicable on the worst-hit districts. However, if people fail to follow Covid-19 protocol and the situation worsens, the government may impose strict curbs in other districts as well, the chief minister warned at a review meeting of Covid task force with top officials. The situation will be reviewed after two weeks, said Singh.

Except for medical institutes, schools and other colleges are ordered to close till March 31. It has also been decided that only 100 persons will be allowed in a mall at any time, the revised guidelines mandated. Cinema halls have also been asked to function at 50% capacity.

The night curfew will now be in place from 9 pm to 5 am, instead of 11 pm to 5 am, in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Mohali, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Rupnagar.

All these districts have been reporting more than 100 cases daily.

The announcement came after 2,039 new cases and 35 more fatalities were reported in the state on Wednesday.

Ludhiana had reported 233 cases, Jalandhar 277, Patiala 203, Mohali 222, Amritsar 178, Gurdaspur 112, Hoshiarpur 191, Kapurthala 157 and Rupnagar 113.

Several stringent measures, including restrictions on gatherings, will be announced after discussions with the state government’s expert team over the next couple of days, the chief minister said while addressing a press conference to mark the completion of four years of his government.

“Whether these will include restrictions on political gatherings is also something that will be decided as per the medical expert team’s advice,” he added.

Following a sudden surge in cases, the authorities in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad and Surat cities have decided to increase the night curfew timings by an hour. The Gujarat government had earlier increased the night curfew timings in four major cities, including Ahmedabad, by two hours to stem the spread of the virus.

Night curfew timings earlier were from 12 am to 6 am, and then on Tuesday, timings were revised to 10 pm to 6 am. With the detection of 298 new cases in the city on Thursday, the curfew would remain in force from 9 pm to 6 am every night till further orders. The Ahmedabad municipal corporation has also ordered all malls and cinema halls, where people gather in large numbers, to shut down on weekends.

 

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