As Covid Cases Spike, Uddhav Thackeray Leads Maharashtra Cabinet Meet

Maharashtra Covid-19 Cases: Uddhav Thackeray addressed people of the state on Friday via TV (File)


Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who on Friday said he could not rule out a second lockdown to combat the spike in coronavirus cases in the state, will lead a cabinet meet today to discuss the situation.

The meeting – to be conducted via video conferencing to maintain social distancing – is expected to shed light on further rules and measures to be enforced to control the spread of the virus.

Maharashtra reported nearly 50,000 new cases on Saturday – around 60 per cent of all cases reported from across the country on that day. On Friday the state reported around 48,000 cases.

State capital Mumbai reported over 9,000 cases on Saturday – the most in a day since the pandemic began in December last year. On Friday the city reported over 8,800 new cases.

Pune, one of the biggest cities in the state, has also reported alarming figures; on Friday the district administration ordered a 12-hour night curfew and the shutting down of shopping malls, religious places, and hotels and bars for a week, as well as that of public buses.

According to the centre, eight of the top 10 worst-affected districts in India are from Maharashtra.

The state’s medical infrastructure – battered after earlier waves of infections – is under more pressure.

On Saturday the Chief Minister warned that rising daily demand for oxygen cylinders would soon force him to divert those meant for industrial use as well. Last week the Mumbai civic body warned of a shortage of beds as it prepped for a potential 10,000 new cases per day.

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On Friday Mr Thackeray, who has previously shied away from imposing a full lockdown, also warned of a “Catch-22 situation” – one in which such a drastic step could not be ruled out, even at the potential catastrophic cost to the economy, if the surge in cases continued.

“I cannot rule out imposing a lockdown if current Covid situation prevails. People have become complacent. We are in a Catch-22 situation – should we look at economy or health?” he said.

“If this condition continues, I have told you already that in 15 days we will exhaust our infrastructure. So today I am giving a warning of a lockdown. Not announcing a lockdown yet. But if I don’t find a solution in two days after speaking to more people, then I have no option,” he said.

The continuing spike in cases has led to Maharashtra being identified as a state of “grave concern” by the centre, which has rushed teams of medical experts to the state.

Parallel to Mr Thackeray meeting his cabinet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is holding a meeting with senior government officials in New Delhi, with the situation in Maharashtra on the agenda.

The centre has already asked states to take strong action to enforce Covid-appropriate protocols, including the use of face masks and maintaining social distance. The growing laxity in implementing these measures, the centre feels, is the reason some states are seeing a spike in cases

Some scientists, though, have pointed to the proliferation of mutant strains – such as those from the United Kingdom, Brazil or South Africa, as well as the “double mutant” strain found in Maharashtra in December last year – as a possible reason.

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