Learning from the mistakes on the lack of preparedness when Covid-19 first hit Maharashtra, the state administration has gone into an over-drive to ensure the containment of the Omicron variant, in case of a spread.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has instructed all the ministers in charge of the districts to tighten coordination with the local administration to ensure proper protocols for prevention are followed. While the Minister for Environment and Forests Aaditya Thackeray is coordinating the Covid-19 preparedness in the Mumbai suburban district, the state Textile minister Aslam Shaikh is the minister in charge of Mumbai city.
In addition to this, the chief minister - who is recuperating after a recent surgery - has instructed that there will be no multiple voices speaking to the media. This gag is to ensure that there is no confusion in public mind on the state’s guidelines and implementation.
Thackeray has been closeted in emergency online meetings with the divisional commissioners and district collectors in the state. A bulk of the coordination is being managed by his son Aaditya Thackeray. Though the Covid-19 numbers have seen a small decline, the chief minister is firm that the district administration is prepared to take on the variant if and when it is detected in the state.
The Maharashtra Covid-19 Task Force has been tasked with reviewing and reworking on the plan of action for the Omicron variant. When contacted the president of the task force, Dr Sanjay Oak told Outlook, “I am preparing the presentation for the chief minister.”
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has issued orders making it mandatory for scrutinising the passports for all international travellers arriving in Mumbai. The immigration counter will check the travel history of the last two weeks for these passengers. Travellers who test positive for Covid-19 will be sent to institutional quarantine. Their samples will be sent for genome sequencing, mentioned the new BMC directives. All international travellers arriving in Mumbai will be mandatorily home quarantined even if they test negative.
All international travellers from or transiting through South Africa, Bostwana and Hong Kong, where the Omicron variant has been detected, will have to undergo compulsory RT-PCR tests at the Mumbai airport even if they are carrying fully vaccinated certificates and or have a negative RT-PCR test report, said the guidelines. Presently, RT-PCR tests are mandatory for international passengers arriving from UK, Europe, Middle East, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe.
BMC commissioner Iqbal Chahal has met officials of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International airport authorities, civic ward officers and the IAS officers handling the seven zones of Mumbai on the Omicron variant threat. When the first phase of Covid had made an unbridled advance in Mumbai, the city had been divided into seven zones, each headed by an IAS officer. This helped in compartmentalising the city into smaller zones to tackle the spread of Covid-19. The two Covid-19 war rooms – at Mantralaya and the BMC headquarters – will have additional personnel assigned. All the 227-BMC wards too have Covid-19 war rooms, which are on high alert.
Chahal also met senior police officers, superintendents of the major civic hospitals in the city, executive health officers and the members of the Mumbai and Maharashtra Covid-19 task force and has outlined the mandatory orders for implementation. The civic commissioner has instructed that all the jumbo Covid-19 facilities be reviewed for emergency contingencies.
Medical and other frontline manpower too is being reviewed in addition to the stock of medicines, production and storage of medical oxygen and the availability of ambulances.
All public toilets across the city will be disinfected at least five times a day and it has been made mandatory for ward officers to ensure that this is done. The BMC chief has also asked all private hospitals in the city to be in a state of preparedness for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
Only those who are fully vaccinated can board any mode of public transport – trains, buses, cabs and even auto rickshaws – and get entry into public places such as malls, shops, ticketed and non-ticketed gatherings, restaurants, eateries and any other establishments were the public is allowed entry. A fine of Rs 500 will be levied against those found unvaccinated (both doses) in these places. Only those employees who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to work in shops, malls, theatres and other establishments. A non-vaccination status will attract a heavy fine.
Drivers and conductors of public transport will be fined Rs 500 along with the passenger if found without a mask. Handkerchiefs are not masks and those sporting these too will be fined, stated the Maharashtra Government guidelines. While private buses will be fined Rs 10,000 if passengers are found without masks, those passengers without masks will be fined Rs 500. Every passenger without a mask in private cars will be fined Rs 500.
If any individuals are found in violation of any of the Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) norms in shops or any other establishments, they will be fined Rs 10,000. If the shops and establishments fail to follow the CAB norms, they will be fined Rs 50,000 for each instance of violation. Frequent defaults will lead to the closure of the establishment, shops or organisations till the notification of Covid-19 as a disaster remains in force.
Open air lawns which were allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity have now been scaled down to 25 per cent. Political gatherings can be held but Covid-19 protocols have to be followed. If the numbers exceed 1000 persons the district administration has to immediately reach the place and maintain a close vigil on the gathering. Theatres, restaurants and other eateries can only operate at 50 per cent capacity.
With the wedding season in full swing, the new Covid-19 guidelines will be strictly implemented, said an official.