Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Tuesday, with the focus likely to be on the COVID-19 situation in the state. They last spoke early in May, when the Prime Minister called up Mr Thackeray and three other state leaders.
The two will likely meet before the Prime Minister’s 5 pm address to the nation – which is expected to focus on a national vaccination policy that has been severely criticised by state governments, opposition leaders and medical experts, as well as the Supreme Court.
Maharashtra has registered a steady (and welcome) decline in daily Covid infections and deaths over the past few weeks; the state – the worst-affected with nearly 60 lakh cases overall – has seen its active caseload fall from a high of over seven lakh in end-April to less than 1.9 lakh today.
This morning state authorities reported 12,557 new cases and 618 deaths – which takes the total number of Covid-related deaths to over one lakh – in the previous 24 hours.
Mr Thackeray’s government has announced a five-step unlock plan that came into effect today, and sees districts ranked based on weekly positivity rates and oxygen bed occupancies.
Top-ranked districts – with less than five per cent positivity rates and in which oxygen bed occupancy rate is less than 25 per cent – can open all activities – including restaurants, malls, shops, salons and movie theatres, without restrictions.
Districts with a positivity rate in excess of 20 per cent and bed occupancy rates over 75 per cent will get the lowest ranking and will not see any relaxation in restrictions.
State capital Mumbai has been placed in the third level.
Local trains – the densely populated city’s lifeline – will be operational only for essential workers.
Buses can operate at full capacity but passengers will not be allowed to travel standing up.
Mr Thackeray on Sunday said his government was taking a “calculated risk” by relaxing restrictions in certain parts of the state, and urged (not for the first time) people to follow required protocol.
“The state is taking a calculated risk and people have to take care of themselves. Nothing is going to be eased immediately. Some criteria and levels have been fixed, and local administration will take decisions on whether to ease or tighten restrictions,” he was quoted by news agency PTI.
With input from PTI