Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar indicated a possibility of a lockdown in Maharashtra as Mumbai recorded a surge in the COVID-19 cases. Kishore Pednekar said, “People must take precautions or we will head towards another lockdown.” She also noted how the Maharashtra residents have stopped wearing masks which is a matter of concern. “It’s a matter of concern. Most people traveling in trains don’t wear masks. Whether a lockdown will be implemented again is in the hands of people,” said Mumbai Mayor.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray takes a meeting after COVID-19 cases surge

On Tuesday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray took an hour-long meeting with top-level district collectors, municipal commissioners, health minister and front-line senior officials.

Thackeray instructed the authorities to make all the COVID-19 related norms more stringent which includes limited gathering in marriages, fines for violations in not wearing masks, geo-mapping rural regions to identify those areas that have higher positivity rates, and sealing buildings where case clusters are found. This also included a temporary hold on the permission for protests, processions and rallies. Guests in wedding ceremonies are temporarily set to 50.  

Earlier, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar also termed the situation “alarming” and indicated that “harsh decisions” may be taken due to a recent spike in cases. He also expressed concern over Maharashtra citizens not following COVID-19 precautions.  

District collectors can shut schools if necessary”: Rajesh Tope, Maharashtra Health Minister

Meanwhile, State Health Minister Rajesh Tope raised dismay over people who have become lax in continuing to adopt the precautionary measures. “People have become lax in adopting precautionary measures. Masking faces is not something one can compromise with in crowded places.” To keep the social gatherings under control, Tope said that the Maharasthra district collectors have been given the authority to shut schools if necessary. 

“Lockdown not a practical solution”: COVID-19 task force member

Although a new lockdown may be in Making, the COVID-19 task force member Dr Shashank Joshi said that a state-wide lockdown is not a practical solution. He stressed on the fact that the districts have been instructed to strengthen their ‘testing, treating, tracing’ approach. Task force member Dr. Rahul Pandit also took part in the meeting held by the Maharashtra government and said that super-spreading events like marriages will only see 50 people per person for now. Although the rule has been on the place on paper, Pandit said that situation on ground is different and marriages are seeing 400-500 people as attendees. Pandit also said that the task force has not advised a lockdown to the Maharashtra CM as of now.  

An assistant municipal commissioner was quoted in the meeting saying, “We have been instructed to strictly enforce the 50-persons rule in marriages held in the city. Each of the 24 ward officers will have virtual meetings with banquet/marriage hall owners to stress the implementation of the rule and physical distancing among the attendees. If the rule is not followed strictly, we are directed to impose a heavy fine on the banquet hall owner.” 

The surge in COVID-19 cases in Mumbai

Official states from Centre states that Mumbai on Tuesday reported a total of 461 new COVID-19 cases. With the 461 new cases, the tally in the city has risen to 3,15,030 with a death toll at 11,423. Prior to Tuesday, Mumbai had been registering more than 500 cases for five consecutive days since 10th February. The Maharashtra capital is reporting the most number of single-day cases in the state. Apart from Mumbai, Amravati and Nagpur also reported an alarming 400 new cases on Monday. 

Reasons for surge in COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra

-Violation of basic COVID-19 precautions: According to Mumbai Mayor, the 3-point COVID-19 SOP of maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing hands religiously, is not being followed by most citizens. According to reports, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has so far caught more than 15 lakh violators who were out and about without face masks at public places. Moreover, the BMC have accumulated over Rs. 30 crores as fines from these people. 

-Increase in suburban services like Metros: As per Mumbai Mayor, only 60% of the train commuters have not been wearing face masks. These people have risked the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the city. According to the Western Railway CRPO, 2558 Mumbai passengers were fined between Feb 1st to 14th for not wearing masks. Local trains have been opened with restrictions in place from February 1. However, the Mumbai Metropolitain Region has registered an average 950+ increase in new cases daily.