The Maharashtra government late on Wednesday night announced a series of restrictions – titled “Break the Chain” – to combat the deadly spike in coronavirus cases in the state.
Under the new rules, attendance at all private and government (centre and state) offices not directly connected to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic will be capped at 15 per cent.
Offices providing essential services should work at the “lowest required capacity” but can have no more than 50 per cent of their workforce present at any given time. Attendance of people delivering these services should be similarly minimised but this can go up to 100 per cent, if needed.
Attendance at weddings and marriage ceremonies has been capped at 25. These ceremonies may be conducted “only as a single event in a single hall not extending beyond 2 hours”.
Violation of this rule, the state government’s order said, would incur a fine of Rs 5 0,000.
Use of private vehicles, excluding buses, will only be allowed for essential services or valid reasons, like medical emergencies, with driver + 50 per cent of seating capacity. Private vehicles will not be allowed to travel inter-city or inter-district unless it is an emergency or is required for essential services.
Violation of this rule will incur a fine of Rs 10,000.
Private buses can run with a maximum of 50 per cent of seated capacity, with no standing travellers. Inter-city or inter-district travel by buses has also been regulated, with service operators directed to make no more than two stops in a city.
Service operators violating these guidelines can be fined up to Rs 10,000, with repeated defaults leading to cancellation of license till the pandemic ends.
Use of public transport has been limited to government (state, centre or local) personnel, all medical personnel (including doctors, paramedics and lab techs), and any person needing medical treatment or any specially-abled person and their attendant.
All of these categories of people must also have a valid ID.
State-run buses are also limited to 50 per cent capacity, with the no-standing rule to be enforced.
For both state-run and private buses all passengers will get hand-stamps – to be done by the bus operator – indicating a 14-day home quarantine period, and could face mandatory and random rapid antigen tests when they deboard.
On Wednesday Maharashtra – the worst-affected state in the country – reported over 67,000 new Covid cases and 568 deaths – the most in a day – linked to the virus in the past 24 hours.
Pune remains the worst-affected city with 10,852 cases and 35 deaths. Mumbai logged 7,684 cases and 62 deaths in the last 24 hours, followed by Nagpur with 7,555 cases and 41 deaths.
Nashik, where 24 people died today because disruptions in the oxygen supply triggered by a leak in a tanker, reported 6,703 cases and 29 deaths.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has already announced a night curfew and weekend lockdown to try and stem the growth of the virus, but that does not seem to have had any effect.