Sources who attended said it is likely that a 15-day lockdown will be implemented but a final decision will be taken after a series of meetings to be held on Sunday and Monday, in which a detailed plan will be worked out.
Senior officials said it is likely that all the curbs being observed in the current weekend lockdown may be extended to weekdays.
The lockdown will not be as stringent as it was last year, but only food manufacturing units along with medical diagnostics kits, pharmaceutical industries and their supply chains may be allowed to operate. “Initially, too, only industries associated with essentials were allowed to operate. A similar restriction may be imposed this time as well,” said sources.
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While a Covid task force meeting is likely on Sunday, deputy CM Ajit Pawar will call for a meeting to plan the relief measures on Monday. It is likely that an official announcement will be made on Monday or Tuesday.
All the alliance partners have supported the decision and opposition leaders have asked the government to announce a relief package for all those who will be impacted. The meeting on Saturday was held to arrive at a consensus on a lockdown in the state.
Thackeray said there is no option but to go in for stricter curbs. “The number of patients is increasing so fast that if we do not decide on a lockdown today, a lockdown-like situation will automatically arise tomorrow,” said Thackeray.
“This is a health emergency and so priority should be given to the lives of the people. The situation is grim and we have to impose strict restrictions to slow down the spread,” said Thackeray.
Senior officials said while the current restrictions will continue, unchecked daytime movement on weekdays may be restricted too. Currently, there is only a prohibitory order which does not allow assembly of more than five people during the day, though movement is unrestricted. He said the government is likely to continue with public transport such as trains, autos and buses for essential workers and for the general public for essential activities and emergencies.
“There are nearly 60,000 people who head out to vaccination centres in Mumbai every day. There will be students going out for exams. Public transport will continue for all those who have a valid reason to step out,” said the official. Also, long-distance trains will continue to run so that no one is stuck and there is no panic.
Opposition leaders said the government should come up with a comprehensive plan before any more restrictions are added. They also said relief measures and monetary packages for migrants, traders and daily-wage workers should be announced. Subsidised foodgrains should be made available for all those who will be impacted.
“While imposing more restrictions, the government should also take into account public sentiment. Relief must be extended to small traders, retailers and salon owners whose business is also impacted,” said Devendra Fadnavis, leader of the opposition. Fadnavis further said medicines, oxygen supply and health infrastructure should be ramped up not only in the cities, but in rural areas as well.
“We are all concerned about the poor and the working class. We will think about their problems too, but at the moment we need to stop the rapid spread. If we have to win this fight, we all have to go through some hardships,” said Thackeray.
Senior officials said Thackeray had pointed out the infrastructure available today will prove to be inadequate in the next few days. Also, demand for oxygen too has gone up considerably and the state may soon run out. As on Friday, 960 metric tonne oxygen was used in the state as against the production of 1,200MT. “There was a debate regarding whether a seven-day lockdown suffice, but health officials were of the opinion that at least a 15-day lockdown is required to have the desired impact,” said a senior official.