MUMBAI: Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday took a series of decisions to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, chief among which was restricting the movement of private vehicles till March 31 and the sealing of borders of unaffected districts. On a day Mumbai saw 13 fresh Covid-19 cases, the highest increase in a day, it was decided that three state-run hospitals—GT, J J and St George-—will have isolation wards comprising 500 beds. Overall, Mumbai now has 37 positive cases, MMR 53, and the state 97. A 68-year-old Philippines national who was being treated for Covid-19 since the past ten days at the Kasturba Hospital died on Monday after developing acute renal failure and respiratory distress. However, state and civic officials didn’t attribute the death to coronavirus saying he had tested negative for the infection, and hence an expert committee would analyse it. Maharashtra’s death toll continues to be two and the country’s seven as on Monday.
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The CM told journalists that Monday’s restrictions were imposed after it was seen that private vehicles were back on the roads in large numbers, despite the imposition of the CrPC’s section 144 (prohibiting the assembly of four or more people) in all urban areas. Mumbai police booked 31 people on Monday for violating section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code.
Thackeray announced curbs on the use of taxis and autos by permitting only two passengers per taxi, one passenger per auto, and one person, besides the driver, in private cars. “We are forced to impose a curfew in the state. Also, the use of private vehicles, taxis and autos will be restricted only to the extent of procuring essential commodities, health services and other emergency reasons,” said Thackeray.
Sources later said the CM’s use of the word “curfew” was rhetorical, and what he essentially implied was strict restrictions on movement. The formal five-page lockdown order is silent on the word curfew. It just says there is a ban on the assembly of five or more persons.
Though essential services are exempted from the restrictions, the APMC market in Vashi was closed for business on a day reports came in of higher-than-usual vegetable retail prices. The politically affiliated wholesalers shut shop to celebrate an anniversary right after the weekly holiday, Sunday, causing shortages. The shutdown will intensify as APMC has decided to roll down shutters from March 25 to 31, citing the coronavirus spread and that mathadi workers have left for their native villages.
On districts, Thackeray said, “We will not allow it (Covid-19) to spread to the districts which are unaffected as of now.”
It’s not a curfew, but it’s advisable to think of it that way: Police
Collectors of such districts have been asked to issue orders prohibiting the entry of vehicles from beyond their borders. The CM also said that no one will be allowed in any temple, mosque, church, or any other place of worship except for priests, moulvis and padres.
Except for BEST in Mumbai, all public transport services including inter-city MSRTC buses and Metro rail systems have already been suspended in the state. BEST will continue to operate, with 2,000 buses, but only for essential-service commuters exempted from travel restrictions, who need to produce their I-cards before boarding. As for app-cabs, Uber on Monday temporarily suspended services in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. Ola will continue with limited services. Mumbai on Monday, before the fresh restrictions were announced, witnessed skeletal services of kaali-peeli taxis and autos.
The transport of passengers for accessing emergency medical services shall be permitted. A detailed notification announcing the lockdown under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987 was issued by chief secretary Ajoy Mehta on Monday evening. The notification said that residents shall stay at home and come out only for permitted activities like procuring essential commodities and health reasons, while maintain strict social distancing nor ms.
Since the CM mentioned the “curfew” word, Mumbai police spokesperson DCP Pranay Ashok said the restrictions almost amount to it. “You can call it curfew. It is not a war-like situation, and people can go out on the condition that they adhere to the rules. This is being done for the safety of people. They can go out only for emergencies or genuine reasons.”
Stock exchanges, clearing corporations, depositories, mutual fund institutions and stock brokers are to operate at minimum-required registered payroll capacity, and diplomatic missions are to run at minimum capacity.
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