Amid dramatic case surge, restrictions on non-essential activities likely in coming days
Amid speculation of a lockdown across Maharashtra in the backdrop of a massive case surge, State Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday clarified there was no immediate need for imposing a total lockdown in the State while remarking that the immediate challenge facing the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was to ensure strict implementation of COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.
Mr. Tope was speaking after an emergency review meeting chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Wednesday morning at the Mantralaya in Mumbai which was attended by senior authorities.
“We [the State government] are not going to use the vocabulary of a ‘lockdown’ right now and there is no pressing need of it as well. A lockdown means totally shutting off all activities which we are not going to do. However, the challenge at the moment is to make sure that the restrictions already announced be implemented properly,” said the Health Minister.
Mr. Tope, nonetheless, said that if cases kept on soaring in this fashion, then the State government was likely to take a decision soon on curtailing non-essential activities where crowding was observed.
Maharashtra has been witnessing an alarming spike in fresh COVID-19 infections since the past few days, with the total number of active cases surging above 66,000 from a mere 7,000 a fortnight ago.
Mr. Tope said that while there were indications of a ‘community spread’ in this ‘third wave’ of the pandemic, he said that the heartening aspect was that a significant majority of the Omicron variant cases were mild and not requiring oxygen.
“The daily case surge is likely to exceed 25,000 cases today. However, the good part is that 90% of the new infections are either asymptomatic or mild in nature. Hence, we are laying stress on home quarantine in this third wave of the pandemic,” he said.
The Health Minister informed that given the confusion over the proper definition of the quarantine period, it was decided at the meeting to keep the duration for seven days followed by an RT-PCR test.
“The final decision will naturally be taken by the Chief Minister [Uddhav Thackeray]…our emphasis will be on IEC, that is, ‘information, education and communication’ and monitoring those who have been home quarantined,” Mr. Tope said, remarking that the government would be embarking on an aggressive vaccination drive in order to inoculate those who have thus far resisted taking their doses.
Additionally, testing capacity would be ramped up and that maximum utilisation would be done through rapid antigen tests (RATs).
“We have a sample testing capacity up to 2 lakh. We will be increasing testing through RATs and commence kiosk testing as well,” Mr. Tope said.
He informed that the government had authorised private hospitals to give a booster dose for their respective staff who were frontline health workers.
The Health Minister expressed confidence that Maharashtra was much better prepared in terms of oxygen supply to tackle the current wave as opposed to the second wave and that there was likely to be no dependence on other States for procuring oxygen.
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