Maharashtra: Lockdown imminent? Stress on health system feared

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray assessed the prevailing Covid-19 situation in the state during a meeting with district magistrates.

In a meeting held with the chief minister, Health Minister Rajesh Tope and other officials, principal secretary to state health department Dr Pradeep Vyas said there will be a “tremendous stress” on the availability of beds, oxygen supply, and ventilators, which could fall short if the cases continue to go up.

The members of the task force also expressed apprehension that the state might report 40,000 fresh cases in the next 24 hours.

During the meeting, the CM reviewed health infrastructure including the availability of beds, oxygen, medicines etc. in the state to treat COVID-19 patients.

The task force then recommended that the state government implement measures like a stricter lockdown to stem the rise in coronavirus positive cases.

The chief minister has asked officials to prepare a detailed plan for implementation of a lockdown which will have a minimum impact on the economy of the state, the release said.

“There should not be any kind of confusion among the people once a lockdown is announced,” the CM is quoted as saying.

Maharashtra has seen a huge rise in coronavirus positive cases over the last week. As many as one lakh new infections were added to the state’s tally in such short period.

“24,619 cases had been reported on a single day in September, 2020. However, on March 27 this year, the state reported 35,726 new cases in a day. This number could touch 40,000 in the next 24 hours,” the release said quoting the members of the task force.

Dr Vyas made a presentation on the current status of beds, ventilators, availability of oxygen during the meeting.

“There are 3.57 lakh isolation beds in the state of which 1.07 lakh are already filled. The remaining beds are getting filled at a higher speed,” Dr Vyas said, adding that out of the 60,349 oxygen beds, 12,701 beds are already occupied by COVID-19 patients.

“Out of the 19,930 beds, 8,342 beds are already occupied with mild symptomatic patients. 1,881 of the 9,030 ventilators also remain occupied,” he said.

Dr Vyas said some districts in the state do not have vacant beds at all, which is an indication of the health system falling short (to tackle the rising cases).

The health department has blamed the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases to the delayed response by citizens.

“People are not testing in time. They are not following COVID-appropriate behaviour. At the same time, private establishments are not following the 50 per cent attendance norms. There seems a casual approach to home isolation. These all factors could be some of the reasons behind the spike in the cases,” the department said.

The CM then directed officials to ensure sufficient supply of foodgrains, medicines and all types of medical services to address the challenge of the pandemic.

“The industry should produce 80% of oxygen for medical reasons and remaining for other purposes,” he said.

Tope said the cases are rising at a rate of 10% every day in the state.

“We fear of falling short of beds in some areas,” he said.

Tope said the government has asked for E-ICUs as well as for short isolation and treatment centres across cities. It will meet the requirement up to some extent, he added.

“If cold chain facilities are increased in rural areas, we can vaccinate more people and prevent further spread of the virus. There is a sizable number of youngsters in the new cases. We fear some of them might lose their lives,” Tope said.

Struggling to arrest the upsurge in coronavirus positive cases, the CM on Friday directed officials to impose section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure under which gathering of five or more persons will be banned in the night in the state, beginning March 28.

On Saturday, the state government announced a ban on holding of all types of gatherings, including political and religious. It also ordered that restaurants, gardens and malls will remain shut between 8 pm to 7 am beginning Saturday night. People will also not be allowed to visit beaches from 8 pm to 7 am.

Maharashtra on Saturday reported 35,726 new coronavirus positive cases, the second-highest daily rise, which took the tally to 26,73,461.

At 166, the state reported the highest number of fatalities due to COVID-19 in this year so far.

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