Rajendra Jadhav and Abhirup RoySun, 4 April 2021, 3:51 pm
By Rajendra Jadhav and Abhirup Roy
MUMBAI (Reuters) -India’s richest state, Maharashtra, announced stringent COVID-19 restrictions from Monday, after a rapid rise in infections now accounting for more than half the country’s daily new cases.
An industrialist who attended a meeting with the chief minister before the curbs were announced quoted him as saying that “the situation is grim and there could be shortage of hospital beds, doctors and oxygen cylinders”.
He declined to be named, but the comments echo those of government and health officials to Indian media about the situation in the state, which includes the crowded financial capital Mumbai.
The state will shut shopping malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants and places of worship from Monday evening.
Authorities will also impose a complete lockdown at weekends, Nawab Malik, a minister in the state government, told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
Malik said the government would impose a night curfew across the state from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. from Monday, allowing only essential services to operate during those hours.
Millions of migrant workers travel from across India to secure jobs in the western state that accounts for about 16% of India’s economic output.
Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray met the industrialists before announcing the restrictions, according to a statement from his office.
Malik said industrial operations such as manufacturing and construction activity would be allowed to continue as usual.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting on Sunday to review the COVID-19 situation and vaccination programme.
The country reported 93,249 new cases in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, according to data from the federal Health Ministry. Maharashtra, which accounts for less than a 10th of the population, accounted for a record 49,447 new cases.
The state, according to health ministry data, has contributed 57% of total cases and 47% of deaths in the country in the past 14 days.
Ten matches in the Indian Premier League cricket tournament scheduled to be played in Mumbai between April 10-25 will continue as planned despite the new curbs, an official at the local cricket body told Reuters.
The tournament, set to start without spectators from Friday in six venues across the country, has already been hit, with two cricketers testing positive despite coronavirus protocols set up for participants.
India is behind the United States and Brazil in the highest number of infections in the world, with more than 12 million cases and nearly 165,000 deaths recorded since the start of the outbreak.
(Rajendra Jadhav in Satara and Abhirup Roy in Mumbai; Additional reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Rupam Jain, Peter Graff and Alison Williams)