Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday appealed to the people of the State to celebrate a firecracker-free Deepavali this year to reduce air pollution and prevent a surge in novel coronavirus cases.
Following a review meeting with officials and members of the State Task Force and Death Audit Committee set up to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Tope said he would take up the issue with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. “People should be extra careful ahead of Deepavali and must follow all safety norms. Smoke due to firecrackers leads to respiratory problems. I appeal to the people of Maharashtra to celebrate the festival without crackers. I will be placing the demand before the Chief Minister and the State Cabinet,” Mr. Tope said.
The State government has also decided to continue with the decision to reserve 80% beds in private hospitals for COVID-19 patients. The government has also directed the setting up of death audit committees at hospitals where the COVID-19 death rate has witnessed a spike.
He said, “We do not expect a second wave of COVID-19 in Maharashtra, but we have to be prepared for any situation. We will be increasing testing through 500 labs. Considering the onset of winter, the government plans to increase fever surveillance across the State for early detection of COVID-19. Private doctors are advised to conduct COVID-19 tests as per the symptoms.”
The government will also increase testing at malls, shopping complexes, grocery shops and public transport, among others, as people who frequent these locations have been identified as “super- spreaders”, the minister said. Those who will undergo tests include shopkeepers, milk and vegetable vendors, small-scale businesspersons, and public transport employees.
If the Maharashtra government bans firecrackers, it will be joining a few other States like Rajasthan which have already imposed the rule. The Delhi government on Thursday decided to ban firecrackers in the national capital ahead of Deepavali.
The Odisha government on Tuesday banned the sale and use of firecrackers during the festive season to check air pollution, which can aggravate health conditions of COVID-19 patients. The period of the ban is from November 10 to 30.
The Calcutta High Court on Thursday also banned the use and sale of firecrackers on Kali Puja to curb pollution amid the pandemic.
(With PTI inputs)