Maharashtra bans political, religious and social gatherings, imposes new lockdown in some areas as COVID-19 cases rise

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Mumbai: Maharashtra, the worst COVID-19-hit state in India, banned political, religious and social gatherings and imposed a new lockdown in some areas on Sunday (February 21, 2021) amid a spike in coronavirus confirmed cases.

Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that the daily COVID-19 cases in the state had risen to almost 7,000 from about 2,000 in January. He also demanded stricter measures from Monday to contain the spread of the virus in Maharashtra’s four districts and added that the new coronavirus-related restrictions could be imposed beyond these districts if needed.

Uddhav Thackeray in a televised address said, “The second wave has been knocking on our door. Whether it has come or not will be confirmed in the next eight to fifteen days.”

Maharashtra on Sunday reported 6,971 new COVID-19 confirmed cases, whereas 2,417 people recovered from the virus in the past 24 hours.

According to the state’s health minister Rajesh Tope, Maharashtra’s COVID-19 count has now surged to 21,00,884, of which, 19,94,947 have recovered and 51,788  have succumbed to the virus. The state still has 52,956 active coronavirus cases.

Political, religious and social gatherings to be banned in Maharashtra from Monday

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray announced that all the political, religious and social gatherings will be prohibited in the state from Monday. He said that the political agitations will not be allowed for the next few days as they attract a crowd. Thackeray stated, “The pandemic is raising its head in the state, but whether it is another wave or not, it will be known in eight to fifteen days.”

The Maharashtra Chief Minister added that the lockdown may not be the solution to COVID-19, but it is the only option to break the cycle of the virus. He said, “Lockdown is not the way out, but stopping physical contact is the way to break the transmission chain. A century ago, there was the Spanish Flu. Then also masking up, washing hands, maintaining physical distancing was the strategy used.”

Uddhav Thackeray said that COVID-appropriate behaviour is a must and those violating the rules will be punished. He noted that a face mask is the only ‘shield’ in the war against the COVID-19 outbreak.

New COVID-19 lockdown in Maharashtra?

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray posed a question to the citizens in the state and asked if the government should impose a lockdown. He said he will seek the answer in the coming eight days.

“Those who do not want a lockdown will observe protocols like using masks, washing hands and keeping physical distance. People who want a lockdown again will flout these rules. Let us see who wants a lockdown, and who doesn’t. I am very clear about this,” Maharashtra CM said.

7-day lockdown in Maharashtra’s Amravati from Monday

Maharashtra’s Amravati will be placed under a week-long lockdown from Monday 8 pm, said Cabinet Minister Yashomati Thakur. Only essential services will be allowed to function in the area and the authorities further warned that the lockdown could be extended if people do not follow COVID-19 norms.

Cinema houses, gyms, swimming pools, parks will remain shut and gatherings for entertainment, educational, cultural, religious purposes etc will not be permitted.

Apart from the 7-day lockdown in Amravati, certain restrictions will be in place in four other districts of the Amravati division namely Akola, Washim, Buldhana and Yavatmal.

Pune shuts schools and colleges, imposes night curfew till February 28

The district administration in Pune city announced to close all the educational institutions to curb the sudden rise in coronavirus cases. The city also imposed a night curfew, where, from 11 pm to 6 am, no public movement will be allowed except for those involved in essential services.

Increase surveillance, conduct more RT-PCR tests: Centre tells states

The Centre on Sunday directed states to increase the surveillance and conduct more RT-PCR tests. India has been witnessing rising COVID-19 cases over the past few days and the total active caseload increased to 1,45,634 on Sunday.

“Of late, it is seen that there has been a spike in the daily cases in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh also. Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir too are witnessing a surge in daily new cases,” said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The Centre has advised all these states to work on the following major areas:

1. Improve the overall testing numbers by focusing on increasing the proportion of RT-PCR tests.

2. All negative Rapid Antigen Test results to be mandatorily followed by RT-PCR test and no such negative persons are to be missed.

3. Refocus on strict and comprehensive surveillance as well as stringent containment in selected districts.

4. Regular monitoring of the mutant strains through testing followed by Genome Sequencing, as well as monitoring of the emerging cluster of cases.

5. Focusing on clinical management in districts reporting higher deaths.

(With inputs from agencies)

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