Third Wave: Maharashtra Tightens Restrictions, Pushes To Vaccinate 70% Eligible Population At Earliest

Uddhav Thackeray
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Mumbai, 25th June 2021: In Maharashtra, after the relaxation of restrictions in five levels, there has been a slight increase in the number of new Coronavirus disease (COVID19) cases and deaths in the last two to three weeks. The Delta Plus variant of the Coronavirus has also posed a major challenge to the state. 

Delta Plus Coronavirus (21 cases till now) was found in patients in some districts of the state and its number was slowly increasing, prompting some restrictions. Against this backdrop, the state government has now announced new changes to the existing regulations. Accordingly, it has been decided to keep all the districts and Municipal Corporations in the state at minimum third level, which means that there will be some restrictions now.

Districts and Municipal Corporations were divided into five levels as per the rules announced on June 4 in the state according to the positivity rate and oxygen bed occupancy in that district. 

Accordingly, the restrictions became more and more stringent with each of these levels. However, as per the decision announced by the state government today, no matter how low the positivity rate or bed occupancy rate is, the districts and corporations in the state will not be below the third level till further orders. 

In his order, Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte stated, “New variants like Delta, Delta Plus etc. have come to spread and are fuelling the potentiality of imminent (4-6 weeks), more severe third wave with wider geographical area. INSACOG (a consortium of laboratories for Whole Genome Sequencing in the context of Covid19 pandemic) has intimated that Delta Plus Variant is currently a Variant of Concern (VOC) with the following characteristics: 

1. Increased transmissibility 

2. Stronger binding to receptors of lung cells 

3. Potential reductions in monoclonal antibody response; 

This VOC has been found in Maharashtra – in Ratnagiri, Jalgaon and other districts – requiring stricter restrictions in general to contain the spread of this virus. These mutations to the virus and its continual evolution mean that unforeseen situations may unfold requiring wider and stricter restrictions, though current indices taken into account for imposing administrative level restrictions may indicate so and thus state level triggers other than Oxygen Beds Occupancy at state level need to be promulgated.”  

1. State Level Triggers: Given that the virus causing Covid19 is undergoing mutations in various geographies and that these mutations are displaying more transmissibility and potential reductions in monoclonal antibody response, a State Level Trigger mandating all the administrative units, irrespective of values of the indices of weekly positivity rate and oxygen bed occupancy percentage to remain at a level, not below 3 is to be in operation till withdrawn by specific order of State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA). 

2. Weekly Positivity Rate: Weekly positivity rate to be considered for a decision regarding levels of restrictions to be applied must be determined only on the basis of RT-PCR tests and not RAT or other tests. Data for this shall be made available by Public Health Department. 

3. Declaration Process for Levels of Restrictions to be followed by DDMA: District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) shall take data from Public Health Department and shall decide the level of restrictions that may be followed in various administrative units under their jurisdiction subject to any State Level Trigger in operation. DDMA may decide to impose a higher level of restrictions or further restrictions with the same base level of restrictions. DDMA shall not require prior permission of SDMA for going for a higher level of restrictions or putting extra restrictions. 

4. While coming down onto a lower level, DDMA shall look into two weeks’ trend before accepting a lower level of restrictions. When there is an upward trend in a number of positive cases being identified daily and requiring a higher level of restrictions than the current one, DDMA however shall do so without waiting for two weeks’ trends. 

5. DDMA has to take the following special actions, in addition, to ensure ease of restrictions does not lead to the spread of Covid 19:

 a. Push vaccination through public awareness activities: Attempt most be to achieve vaccination of 70% of the eligible population at the earliest; encourage workplace vaccinations especially of blue-collar workers; 

b. Push Test-Track-Treat methodology to contain the spread, 

c. Enforce establishments to ensure safe workspaces with proper air ventilation norms using neither hepa filters or proper exhaust fans due to airborne droplet nature of the virus, 

d. Carry out large number of tests and percentage of RT-PCR tests vis-a-vis other tests must be as expected by Public Health Department, 

e. Impose fines effectively on violators of Covid Appropriate Behaviour, 

f. Avoid events/ functions/ activities that lead to crowding, congregations and gatherings, 

g. Declare containment zones judiciously so that restrictions are imposed on a smaller area, especially defaulting area, 

h. Make flying squads for enforcement of CAB, especially to check high incidence events like marriages and establishments like restaurants, malls etc. It must be appreciated that CAB compliance is a must for lowering restrictions that are nothing but social level desperate measures in case of failure of this compliance by individual citizens.