Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday announced that the lockdown in the State would continue till at least April 30.
The 21-day lockdown called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ends on April 14 and several Chief Ministers have made a demand to extend it as the number of patients affected by the novel coronavirus continues to increase. Earlier on Saturday, Mr. Modi had chaired a video-conference with all the CMs during which Mr. Thackeray informed him of Maharashtra’s decision to extend the lockdown.
“In today’s video-conference, I got the first opportunity as Chief Minister of Maharashtra to voice my opinion,” Mr. Thackeray said in an address to the State through social media. “I said we will extend the lockdown beyond April 14 as precautions are needed in Mumbai and Pune. We know the seriousness of the situation and we will do what needs to be done,” he added.
Observing that the State government had not restricted agricultural activities and the transportation and supply of essentials, Mr. Thackeray appealed to the public to not get confused or panic. “There are questions about till when the lockdown will continue. It all depends on us and the discipline we follow. It depends on how fast we break the transmission chain using our resolve. The lockdown will continue at least till April 30,” he said.
He said the instructions about examinations in universities and schools, as well as norms for allowing industries to be operational, would be spelt out by April 14. “This will go on till at least April 30. I am stressing on the word ‘at least’ because it all depends on our social discipline. It is only then that we will be able to overcome the situation by April 30. We will grant relaxations in some areas, and also increase curbs in others to prevent transmission,” he said.
Appealing to the Opposition to rise above party politics, Mr. Thackeray said all CMs across party lines have joined hands setting aside political differences. The States and Centre are working together. “Let us not vitiate the atmosphere. I am imploring you all, let us not play politics here. Party politics must stop. Remember, the virus does not discriminate on caste, religion and political affiliations,” he said.
Mr. Thackeray said that the government had managed to slow down the spread of the virus. “The patients being detected now are those infected earlier and their contact cases. We are testing door-to-door and are finding asymptomatic patients. This means we are breaking the transmission chain. It will take time,” he added.
Acknowledging that the increase in the number of patients in Mumbai was worrying, Mr. Thackeray said one of the reasons was that the city had one of the busiest airports in the country. “Keep in mind that we have sealed areas in Mumbai which have reported positive patients with curbs on entry and exit. I know this affects local residents initially. We are forced to do this,” he added.
Sharing data, Mr. Thackeray said so far more than 33,000 tests had been conducted, of which 19,000 tests had been in Mumbai, and that more than 1,000 of those tested in the city had been found to be positive. “But, 60-70% of those found positive have mild symptoms. Unfortunately, the number of deaths is high. But, I will reiterate, those above 60 years, those who suffer from heart trouble, obesity, kidney problems, high blood pressure, are in the high-risk group. Many cases came to hospitals only when things got worse,” he added.