By: Parag Karandikar
MUMBAI: Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday indicated that Maharashtra, especially hotspots like Mumbai and Pune, would continue to remain under lockdown—albeit with a few further relaxations—once Version 4.0 ends this Sunday. He said the next 15 days— when “everyone needs to be careful”— would be crucial in the fight against Covid-19.
The state government would fix and outline its new set of rules and relaxations once the Centre made its position on the post-May 31 scenario clear during the weekend, he told a select group of editors, including from Maharashtra Times, TOI’s sister publication.
We fully appreciate chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s focus on not letting the pandemic spin out of control; every effort must indeed be made to keep a tight lid on fatalities. But, at the same time, how much longer can Mumbai afford to be kept under strict lockdown? The rest of India is gradually returning to a new normal. Delhi, despite rising infections, has opened up public transport, including buses (and is willing to restart the Metro), offices (at full capacity), shops and markets, parks, even sports complexes. Bengaluru, too, is pushing ahead and is keen to unshutter malls and restaurants. Meanwhile, Mumbai, which made its name and fame as the city that never sleeps, remains in a state of semi-curfew. True that the situation is grimmer than in any other city, and there is a real fear that the public health infrastructure might be overwhelmed by a further surge in infections. But sooner rather than later, the government needs to make the hard choice of letting the business capital of India get back to doing what it does best – business.
He claimed the state government had the overall Covid-19 numbers under control and that the fatality rate had come down, but added that it was still not time to lower one’s guard. “We are at a turning point now. The pandemic is close to peaking, or may have peaked at the moment, in Mumbai and Pune. So how we go ahead from here is important,” he said. Referring to a “second wave of infections now being seen in China and Kerala,” he added, “The experience so far has been that once curbs are eased, there’s a second wave. Will we have such a wave at all, and how strong will it be, is a question.”
Asked if the novel coronavirus might ride on the back of monsoon-related illnesses once the rains begin in June, Thackeray said, in a lighter vein, “Anyone can ally with anyone these days.” Then, he added, “Everyone will have to take care that the administrative machinery is not burdened further during the monsoon.”
There has been much talk about learning to live with the virus, Thackeray said. But how to do that had to be made clear, and the media would have to play a key role in bringing about public education in this regard, he said.
BMC chief I S Chahal, who briefed the editors on Covid-19 numbers during the interaction, said the case count may appear substantial but one had to take into account the fact that a lot of people had been discharged after treatment and so many were asymptomatic and in home quarantine. “So the number of people being treated in healthcare facilities is not very big, yet people may form a wrong opinion on what is going on,” Chahal said.
Taking off from that, Thackeray claimed the government had been able to control the spread of the virus in the past two months because of its “ceaseless efforts”. Thackeray also said he had told all state officials they must be totally transparent about the numbers.
Expressing unhappiness at the decisions taken by the Centre on movement of migrants, Thackeray said the state government had had to spend a lot of its energies on their transportation.