Uddhav Thackeray addressing the state on April 13 (Image: Twitter/CMOMaharashtra)
The restrictions imposed to curb COVID-19 transmission would be tightened from 8 pm onwards on April 14, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced. The new set of curbs would remain in effect for at least 15 days. All forms of services in the non-essential category would remain barred in the period.
"We are imposing strict restrictions which will come into effect from 8 pm tomorrow. Section 144 to be imposed in the entire state from tomorrow," he said in a televised address on April 13.
"I will not term this as lockdown," Thackeray said, but added that only essential services would be allowed between 7 am and 8 pm.
The local trains and buses would continue, but only essential service providers would be allowed to use the public transport. The restriction is aimed at preventing unnecessary commutation, the chief minister claimed.
Petrol pumps, financial institutions associated with SEBI and construction work will continue, Thackeray said.
Hotel and restaurants will remain closed, only take-away and home deliveries would allowed, he added.
The essential category of service which are exempted from the restrictions between 7 am to 8 pm include healthcare centres, insurance offices, pharmacies, groceries, vegetable shops, dairies, bakeries, confectionaries, warehouse and cold storage services.
Cargo services, accredited media, e-commerce (only for the supply of essential goods and services) and IT services supporting critical infrastructure have also been exempted.
ATMs, postal services, auto rickshaws, taxis and manufacturing units producing raw materials of essential products are also exempted, along with those services categorised as essential by the local authorities.
The decision regarding the inclusion of drivers, attendents and household helps in the list of exemptions would be taken by the local administration based on the local COVID-19 situation, stated the guidelines issued by the Maharashtra government.
The state government would be providing 3 kg wheat and 2 kg rice to the poor for next month. Around 7 crore beneficiaries are expected to be covered.
"Shiv Bhojan thali will be given free for the next one month. State gives around 200,000 meal thalis daily, " the chief minister said.
The announcements made by Thackeray drew support from Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj. "I think that the chief minister was outstanding tonight - sincere, grounded, and pragmatic - he has treated people like the adults that they are, exhorting them to make the right choices that are in everyone's interest," he said.
"I hope that the actions of the administration on the ground will mirror his spirit thereby permitting us to secure lives without compromising livelihoods," Bajaj added.
Also read: New guidelines issued for Maharashtra amid spike in COVID-19 cases; check out what's allowed, what's not
Thackeray, during his address, noted that the COVID-19 cases have recently "exploded" and action on war footing is required to combat the pandemic. "The situation is scary," he stressed.
The health infrastructure has been overburdened, Thackeray contended. "There is a shortage of medical oxygen, beds and the demand for Remdesivir has also increased," he said, adding that the state requires 40,000 to 50,000 injections of Remdesivir per day.
The chief minister, however, noted that the state has been transparent in reporting the new cases which have been detected. "We aren't hiding a single (COVID-19) case or death. We are being completely transparent," he said.
On oxygen supplies, Thackeray said he has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi if it's possible to get "delivery of oxygen using the Air Force". The state is already using its entire oxygen supplies only for medicinal purpose, he added.
The chief minister claimed that he has also appealed to PM Modi to "postpone the deadline for GST filing for MSMEs" by another three months. The small and medium scale business owners, along with traders, have been hit by the restrictions imposed to curb the virus transmission.
Thackeray also pushed for maximising the pace of vaccination. He cited the example of United Kingdom, where the number of cases went down after a significant percentage of the population got vaccinated. "We need to increase vaccination to beat the next wave of pandemic," he said.
In the last 24 hours, a total of 60,212 new infections were reported, Thackeray pointed out. The corresponding period also witnessed 281 COVID-19-related deaths.
Hit by the second phase of pandemic, Maharashtra witnessed a spurt in infections since late February. A peak of over 63,000 cases were reported on April 11 - which is the highest since the onset of pandemic last year.
The tally of active cases in Maharashtra has surged to 5,64,746, accounting for around 45 percent of the country's total active caseload.
Mumbai, the state capital, emerged as a virus hotspot in this phase of the pandemic as well. The city accounts for 86,279 of the total active infections so far.