MUMBAI: The rapid spread of Covid-19 finally forced the Uddhav Thackeray government to announce lockdown-like restrictions across the state from 8 pm on Monday. On weekends, a complete lockdown will be imposed.
A state government notification issued late on Sunday said all shops except essential services would remain shut till the end of the month, leaving people only Monday to buy non-essential goods this month. Restaurants will be allowed to operate only takeaway and home delivery services during the day hours.
While night curfew will be imposed every day from 8 pm to 7 am, gatherings of five or more persons will be prohibited during the daytime — 7 am to 8 pm — on weekdays.No religious, social, cultural, or political functions of any kind will be allowed. The state decided it would conduct board exams, but all schools, colleges, and private tuition classes would remain closed. Vaccinations will continue all days of the week, including weekends.

The notification gave an exemption from the restrictions to essential services like hospitals, diagnostic centers, pharmacies, and other health services, grocery, vegetable and food stores, trains, public buses, taxis and autorickshaws, all public services by local authorities, goods transportation, and agriculture-related services, e-commerce and accredited media. Banking, insurance, telecommunication, and medical offices will also be exempted.

Private vehicles, including private buses, can ply as usual from 7 am to 8 pm from Monday to Friday, and in emergencies or on essential service duty from 8 pm to 7 am on weekdays and 8 pm on Friday to 7 am on Monday.

The government said essential services should ensure social distancing between customers on their premises.
“Malls, restaurants, and bars will remain closed, but takeaway service will remain in operation,” minister Nawab Malik said after a cabinet meeting. “Government and semi-government offices will run with 50% capacity while private offices will have to go for ‘work from home.”

Public transport will operate at 50 % capacity. Autos and taxis will be allowed, two passengers. There will be no standing passengers allowed on buses and local trains. Gymnasiums, salons, and beauty parlors will remain shut.

Only restaurants and bars inside hotels and which are an integral part of the hotel will remain open. On weekends, only home delivery services will be allowed between 7 am and 8 pm — no person may visit any restaurant or bar. In districts where elections are to be held, permission may be granted by the district collector for any political gathering subject to certain conditions.

Construction sites which have facility for worker accommodation will be allowed to operate. All theatres, cinema halls, malls, gardens, and playgrounds will remain closed. The film shooting will be allowed if there is no crowding.

On Sunday, CM Thackeray summoned a special cabinet meeting to discuss measures to curb the surge in Covid-19 cases. The urgency to impose restrictions was hastened after the state reported over 57,000 new cases, the highest since the pandemic came to the state last year.

After the cabinet meeting, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said: “The entire state had opposed a complete lockdown, but health experts cautioned us about the increasing number of Covid cases.” While issuing new guidelines, the state has changed its tag line from ‘Mission Begin Again’ to ‘Break the Chain’. Thackeray decided to impose stricter restrictions after speaking to representatives from various sectors like the state task force for Covid, the medical sector, the film industry, business houses, and various political parties.

So that the economy is not affected, the state allowed industrial units to remain operational without any restrictions. The government said workers should not be removed from work and contractors should take care of such workers who get infected by the coronavirus.

The new guidelines said that a residential building would be declared a ‘containment zone’ if more than five Covid cases are found.

Health minister Rajesh Tope said weddings could be held with 50 participants and a Rs 10,000 fine will be imposed for failure to follow norms. Only 20 people would be allowed at a funeral.