Thackeray iterated that extending the relaxations did not mean that the Covid-19 crisis had ended. “We are walking on the edge; we have to walk slowly. Just because relaxations are being given people shouldn’t think that battle is over. It is not,” said the CM, who completed seven months in office on Sunday.
Existing restrictions in containment zones in MMR, Thane and Pune will continue, a senior government official told TOI. Elsewhere, district collectors and municipal commissioners will be empowered to grant relaxations. Attendance in offices is likely to be increased further from the existing 10%, and frequency of suburban trains will be increased from 15-20 minutes to five minutes from Tuesday.
The official also said that malls, gymnasiums, swimming pools would continue to remain closed; taxis would be permitted to operate only for specified emergencies.
Maharashtra remains the worst Covid-hit state with a tally of almost 1.65 lakh cases, of which more than 75,000 are in Mumbai. Over 7,400 people have died in the state so far.
State may augment road public transport in further relaxations
Appealing to citizens to refrain from crowding, the CM added: “If we find that people are venturing out without any reason or travelling unnecessarily, we will have no option but to go for the stricter imposition of the lockdown again in the areas with a rise in the cases…Should we go back to the strict lockdown? I want to ask the public. It will all depend on your discipline.”
Thackeray also warned of a possible rise in Covid-19 cases in the next few days as Maharashtra is slowly restarting its economy, but assured that the government is adequately prepared to handle the surge. “There is also a change in our strategy; rather than waiting for the virus to attack us, we are going after the virus. The ‘chase the virus’ approach adopted by Mumbai will now be implemented across the state, ” the CM said.
On May 31, a day after the Centre announced significant relaxations under ‘Unlock 1’, the Maharashtra government had extended the lockdown till June 30, but announced several relaxations and phase-wise resumption of services under its ‘Mission Begin Again’.
A senior official said discussions are on on allowing more road public transport facilities and increasing the number of staffers in private offices. “We will not be announcing all relaxations in one go…We have to also keep in mind that monsoon has arrived and there could be a rise in rain-related diseases,” the official said.
Thackeray thanked all religious trusts that have agreed to host low-key celebrations this year. “On July 1, it is Aashadi Ekadashi. This year, we have not allowed the Wari pilgrimage. But, I will be going to Pandharpur to pray to Vithoba to help us get us out of this pandemic safe and sound,” said the CM.
He added that he has asked the Centre to give a three month extension to the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Yojana, under which free ration is provided to citizens with saffron card and even those who do not possess a ration card.