Tough measures in Maharashtra as Covid-19 cases surge

Tough measures in Maharashtra as Covid-19 cases compound and new suspected strain surfaces

On Friday, the cases in the western state jumped by 6,112 to a progressive total of 20,87,632

A health worker leaves a residential area after conducting swab tests for COVID-19 following rise in Corona cases at Dharavi, in Mumbai. Credit: PTI Photo

Near-lockdown-type measures were clamped in three Vidarbha districts of Amravati, Akola, and Yavatmal even as 5,000-plus marshals fanned the Mumbai metropolitan region (MMR) as the Covid-19 pandemic seems to raise its gory head again in Maharashtra, the worst-hit in the country.

On Friday, the cases in the western state jumped by 6,112 to a progressive total of 20,87,632 – bringing the state to what it was in the last week of November, 2020 – in terms of daily figures.

Compounding the problems in the state was a new suspected strain of the novel coronavirus that was reportedly detected in the Vidarbha districts and was being examined in detail. However, the Maharashtra government has categorically ruled out any evidence of mutated variations of Covid-19 that had surfaced in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.

Meanwhile, coinciding with the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said that masks are like ‘dhal’ of the legendary Maratha warrior. “We need to wear masks in the fight against Covid-19,” he said.

The statement came on a day when over 5,000 marshals fanned the roads of the financial capital and its suburbs which included 300 in moving suburban trains in the MMR.

Also read:?Madras HC issues notice to SII, others over petition alleging adverse reaction after Covishield jab

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said that local district collectors have been authorised to take appropriate decisions as local situations warrant. “Lockdown or not totally depends on the public,” said food and civil supplies minister Chhagan Bhujbal.

Meanwhile, on the issue of new strain, the state’s Public Health Department said: “There is no change in the genetic make-up of the coronavirus in Amravati, Akola and Yavatmal districts.”

It said that four samples each from the three districts and 12 from Pune were tested at the BJ Government Medical College and no genetic mutations were found.

The government has sent more samples from Akola, Amravati, and Yavatmal to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) for genome sequencing, whose reports would be available next week.

The new coronavirus mutant strain found in the Vidarbha region’s three districts is puzzling the healthcare system and has compounded concerns in Maharashtra where Covid-19 cases are spiralling yet again.

The state's politicians who had tested positive include state NCP president and water resources minister Jayant Patil, state health minister Rajesh Tope, food and drug administration minister Dr Rajendra Singne, minister of state for labour and Prahar Janshakti founder Bacchu Kadu, senior NCP leader Eknath Khadse and his daughter-in-law and BJP MP from Raver Raksha Khadse.?

Khadse and Kadu have tested positive for the second time.

Meanwhile, state Congress president and former speaker of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Nana Patole is in self-isolation after two of his staff members tested positive for the infection.

Two senior officials - ?Dr Shanhank Joshi, member of Maharashtra’s Covid-19 task force, and Dr Tatyarao Lahane, Director of Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DEMR) - spoke of a new possible strain.

“New strains were seen in samples collected in Amravati, Akola and Yavatmal,” said Dr Lahane.

However, these strains were not similar to the ones detected from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa.

According to him, more tests need to be conducted to check the “infectiveness” of the new mutant variety.

However, he said that the spike is not related to the new strain but the laxity of part of the people who were not following the precautions and SOPs.

“The government is fully mindful of it and is looking at it in greater detail,” said Dr Joshi.

“Some geographies in Maharashtra are showing large cluster infections. Seeing disrespect for use of mask and sanitation issues in rural areas. The only silver lining is the low death rate. We cannot afford a lockdown,” added Dr Joshi.

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