Maharashtra in beginning of 2nd wave of COVID-19, Centre tells state govt

Maharashtra in beginning of a 2nd wave of COVID-19, Centre tells state govt
People are seen at a crowded market amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, March 10, 2021. Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas

Mumbai: Maharashtra is "in the beginning of a second wave of COVID", the Centre has told the Uddhav Thackeray government, urging the state to focus on containment strategies.

In his letter to Maharashtra Chief Secretary, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan pointed out the lack of COVID-appropriate behaviour and "tracking and testing of cases".

"Maharashtra is in the beginning of a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. There very limited active effort to track, test, isolate cases and quarantine contacts. There is no adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour among people both in rural and urban areas," Bhushan said in his letter "based on the assessment of a central team".

"The Central team inferred that the administrative mechanism should be re-instated to the level witnessed in August -September 2020 to contain/suppress the COVID transmission."

The letter says the current case fatality was found to be very high among admitted cases in hospitals like - Government Medical College in Aurangabad and in Vasant Rao Pawar Medical College, Nashik. This needed investigation in detail, including sending samples for Whole Genome Sequencing, he said.

The central team reported that the number of people testing positive was high, "ranging from 5.1 per cent in Mumbai to 30 per cent in Aurangabad", implying that there were many cases that were not being tested and "there is high transmission in the community".

Because of limited contact tracing, a large pool of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people were not being tracked and tested, said the letter, suggesting that testing be considerably enhanced according to protocol laid down by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

"The central team found that the District Administration is not much worried about the evolving situation. We could sense a feeling that enough has been done already. This complacency may take its toll," Bhushan warned.

Some districts are enforcing or considering night curfews, partial lockdowns and weekend lockdowns (Aurangabad, Nashik and Jalgaon), but these measures "may have only very limited impact on containing/suppressing the transmission", the letter told the state government.

"Hence the district administration should focus on containment strategy as per the guidelines of the health ministry," he said.

Maharashtra reported over 15,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, which took its tally to 23,29,464. In the last 24 hours, 48 deaths were recorded.

Maharashtra doesn't impose lockdown, but 50% restriction back

The Maharashtra government on Monday implemented "strict restrictions of 50 per cent" rather than a total lockdown to control the coronavirus scourge.

Even as trading, business and commercial activities, besides the social milieu, improved a year after the virus entered Maharashtra, the state has gone back to being the worst-hit in the country.

Hotels, restaurants, cinemas, and multiplexes shall be permitted to operate at only 50 per cent capacity, shopping malls will implement stringent Covid protocols, and all social, religious, political and cultural gatherings have been banned.

Similarly, all offices will adhere to the 50 per cent staff norms with Work From Home encouraged, and entries to all places of worship would be strictly regulated, depending on the space available.

Violations of the norms would be punished with the concerned establishments ordered to shut down till the pandemic remains in force as per the Centre's rules.

Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that strong regulations are being imposed for marriages and other social gatherings to curb the virus, besides other measures.

The guest limit for weddings has been capped at 50 and 20 mourners for all funerals, said a notification late this evening.

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