Mumbai: Citing the dangerous spike in Covid infections that were stressing health infrastructure in the state, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday announced a 15-day ‘Janata Curfew’ by imposing stringent restrictions beginning from 8pm on April 14 till 7am on May 1. The government, in a bid to avoid crowding, has invoked Section 144 to ban assemblies of more than four people across Maharashtra. However, essential activities, including travel and services, are allowed.
He also clarified that public transport -- buses, taxis, trains, autos and flights -- would continue to function but with strict crowd management curbs. It would only be available to emergency and essential service providers. Thackeray called upon the people and parties to extend their cooperation in the fight against the virus. He also told political parties, especially the BJP, to refrain from politicising the pandemic.
In his web address on Tuesday, which coincided with the start of the Maharashtrian New Year, Thackeray urged people not to venture out of homes unnecessarily but work from home and voluntarily observe ‘Janata Curfew’. He further said that essential services related to healthcare, banks, media, e-commerce and fuel would also function from 7am to 8pm only.
Financial institutions associated with the SEBI and the RBI will function, as will construction and pre-monsoon work. Industrial units will be allowed to operate but employers will have to make arrangements for their workers to stay on the premises, as their travel will be banned. Groceries, vegetables shops, fruit vendors, dairies, bakeries, confectioneries, food shops, cold storage and warehousing services will continue to function. Manufacturing units for essential services can operate at full capacity.
Shopping centres, malls, film shoots, beaches will remain shut. Hotels and restaurants will remain shut but home delivery and takeaways will be allowed. Shopkeepers and others in essential services will be fined if they do not follow Covid-19 rules, including vaccination.
The number of people at political gatherings, weddings and funerals will be restricted.
Essential services shops will operate while ensuring Covid-19 appropriate behaviour by owners, staff and customers on shop premises. Further, essential shopowners and retail employees have been advised to get vaccinated at the earliest.
“Unfortunately, I have to announce restrictions. Now is the time for action. I am not saying there will be a lockdown just now, but there will be strict restrictions. I know bread and butter is important but saving lives is important too,” said Thackeray. His announcement came on a day when there were 60,212 new cases and 281 deaths reported across the state. The active caseload stands at 5,93,042.
He justified the new curbs saying the time was ripe for these, or else the estimates made by experts about the rise in active caseload would come true. Experts have projected that the state will have 11 lakh active cases by the end of April.
“The situation is scary,” noted Thackeray. He has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for military help to facilitate the airlift of oxygen, citing constraints in road transport. He has also requested the Centre for military assistance in the storage of medicine.
“We are requesting the PM for military assistance to dispatch oxygen by air, instead of by road,” he said.
Thackeray said the state government was being tested by the crisis. “The state government has postponed the board exams for Classes 10 and 12, but we cannot postpone the exam that we are facing currently. It is one we have to pass with flying colours,” he declared.
Thackeray also urged the PM to extend the time for the filing of GST returns in view of the present crisis.
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