With the second wave of the pandemic sweeping across the country, the Maharashtra government is likely to impose a lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
A state cabinet minister on Tuesday said that the Shiv Sena-led government favours a “strict lockdown” to tackle rising Covid-19 cases and that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is likely to make an announcement in this regard on Wednesday.
The development comes on a day when India's Covid-19 case tally climbed to 1,53,21,089 with 2,59,170 new coronavirus infections being reported during the last 24 hours. The country’s active cases also surpassed the 20-lakh mark, on Tuesday.
While states all across the country have reported an increase in the number of infections, the Union health ministry on Tuesday said that just ten states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, account for 77.67 per cent of the new Covid-19 infections.
Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases as the state logged 58,924 new infections on Tuesday.
Amid these developments, the Maharashtra cabinet on Tuesday decided to cancel state board exams of class 10 students. It also sanctioned measures to increase the availability of oxygen including utilisation of oxygen produced by power plants, health minister Rajesh Tope said.
Tope and Public Works Minister Eknath Shinde were talking to reporters after a cabinet meeting amid an alarming rise in coronavirus cases in the state.
Maharashtra has been reporting over 50,000 coronavirus cases every day during the last two weeks but people are still flouting the existing restrictions on movement and gatherings, the ministers said.
"All the cabinet ministers expressed views in favour of a strict lockdown to minimise the spread of Covid-19. Ministers come from all corners of the state, so it also indicates that the entire state needs this measure," Tope said.
"Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray could make an official announcement about more stringent measures tomorrow," Tope added.
The cabinet also decided that state board exams of class 10 students will be cancelled, he said. The exams were scheduled to commence by April-end.
"The 12th standard exam will certainly be held, but we have decided to give relief to Class 10 students," Tope said.
On oxygen availability, the health minister said the state was "managing with 1,550 metric tonnes of oxygen" per day at present.
"The state has been allowed to get 300 MT of oxygen from other states. The Centre can allot us another 300 MT, but we cannot get more than 2,000 MT, overall," he said.
"Using oxygen generators is the only option we have. A couple of tenders have been floated already for the purchase of oxygen generators. We have asked district collectors to consider those rates as base point and issue purchase orders," Tope added.
"Every district should have such plants. The cabinet has approved it," he said.
There are six thermal power plants in the state which also generate oxygen but it needs to be liquefied for transportation and supply to hospitals, Tope said.
These plants will now have a dedicated bottling plant and the oxygen will be supplied to nearby hospitals, he said.
The cabinet also decided to purchase a minimum of 200 oxygen concentrator machines for each of 36 districts, he informed.
PWD minister Shinde said oxygen-carrying tankers will be given the status of ambulance to facilitate their smooth and speedy movement.
(With PTI inputs)
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