(This article is authored by Alar, a freelance content writer)
As the sequel to the sharp rise of Covid cases in the state over the past few days, the Maharashtra state government has now imposed the mask mandate and it has joined a handful of states that reinforced the compulsory mask behaviour in the public places. The development has come when the Union government has written to several states including Maharashtra over a rise in Covid cases.
Speaking to the reporters in Pune, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said, "Mumbai and neighbouring districts like Thane, Palghar, Raigad, and Pune have seen a small surge in numbers. In this regard, the Union health ministry has sent a letter asking for action to be taken. We appeal to the public to wear masks in the areas of the surge." The state has imposed the mask mandate on Saturday - June 4.
Maharashtra's Additional Chief Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas has said, "Mask in closed public places like trains, buses, cinemas, auditoriums, offices, hospitals, colleges, schools is a must. In view of this, steps will need to be taken to keep the surge under control and to keep hospital admissions to a minimum." In the letter, Vyas said nine districts in the state had shown growth in caseloads in the last week compared with the week before.
On Friday, the Maharashtra health department has asked the district and civic authorities to ramp up coronavirus testing as the number of samples being examined had fallen while cases were rising. In his letter, Vyas highlighted, "As per the June 1 data, there has been a gross shortfall in the number of weekly tests conducted in 26 districts which is a major cause of concern. Overall, testing in all districts should be increased immediately."
Vyas has also asked officials to carry out periodic analyses of new cases with respect to time, place and person so that a localised action plan can be carved out. The letter further said that the vaccination coverage should be increased and the precaution dose should be promoted and expedited, while the vaccination in the 12-18 age group needs to improve.
On Friday, the Union government has advised the states with growing Covid cases to maintain a strict watch and take pre-emptive action to curb the spread of the pandemic. As per the data of the Union government, Maharashtra has reported an increase in weekly new cases from 2,471 new infections in the week ending May 27 to 4,883 in the week ending June 3, accounting for 23.19% of India's new cases in the week ending June 3. The state has also recorded an increase in positivity in the last week from 1.5% to 3.1%.
In the letter, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has highlighted that a few states were reporting a higher contribution to India's caseload, indicating the possibility of a localized spread of the infection. He said, "There is, therefore, a need to follow a risk assessment-based approach on the public health responses without losing the gains made so far in the fight against the pandemic." According to the Union Health Ministry, India has reported 3,962 Covid cases and 26 deaths on Friday.