Maharashtra added 6.5 lakh COVID-19 cases in March against 7.3 lakh from October to February
Many people are not maintaining social distance and do not wear masks, exposing themselves to the infection, experts say.
MUMBAI: Maharashtra added 6,51,513 COVID-19 cases in March this year, which accounts for 88.23 per cent of the total number of cases reported in the previous five-month period, according to official data.
Between October 1 last year and February 28, 2021, the state recorded 7,38,377 cases of coronavirus.
The data shows the increased pace of the viral infection in March 2021 compared to previous months.
One of the main reasons for it is the people not following "COVID-appropriate behaviour", say experts.
Many people are not maintaining social distance and do not wear masks, exposing themselves to the infection, they say.
"There have been several discussions among state officials and ministers about increasing the fine amount for people not wearing masks.
It could put some pressure, but the government does not want to use an iron fist to ensure people adhere to the guidelines," a member of the state COVID-19 task force told PTI.
However, another senior state health official said people cannot be pressurised after a certain limit.
"The labour class (low income group) in the state is desperate to go out to work.
Same is the situation with micro, small and medium industries.
They are labour-dominated sectors and we cannot stop people from travelling," she said.
Another government health official said hygiene is a "delicate and lifestyle-related issue" and its definition varies from person to person.
People get irritated if you insist on washing hands every time they go out of their workplace or office, he said.
"It is the case of either an utmost level of hygiene or nothing.
One incident of delaying washing hands or not covering face sufficiently can lead to the coronavirus infection, the official said.
But, living under such constant fear also leads to other psychological complications, another official said.
"We have observed people following COVID-appropriate behaviour for one week to three weeks and later becoming careless.
That is the time when they catch the infection," she said.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a letter to Maharashtra's chief secretary recently pointed out similar reasons.
He had also expressed the need for surveillance of COVID-19 patients who do not follow home quarantine protocols.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope recently said people should be ready for stringent measures in the coming days to curb the spread of COVID-19 and that imposing a lockdown is the last option for the state government.
The state on Wednesday reported as many as 39,544 new coronavirus cases, its second-highest single-day rise in infection tally since the pandemic began, a health official said.
With this, the state's cumulative caseload mounted to 28,12,980.
Just three days back- on March 28- the state had recorded 40,414 new COVID-19 cases, the biggest surge in cases in a day so far.
On March 22, the state had crossed the 25 lakh case mark, while it went past the 27 lakh-mark on March 28.
On Wednesday, Maharashtra reported the deaths of 227 patients.
This one-day fatality count is the highest for the state since October last year, which pushed the death toll to 54,649.
Out of these 227 deaths, 129 had occurred in last 48 hours and 61 in the last week.
Rest 37 patients had died prior to last week, he said.
A total of 23,600 patients got discharge from hospitals during the day, which took the recovery count to 24 lakh.
So far, 24,00,727 people have recovered from the infection.
The number of the active cases in the state is 3,56,243.
A total of 17,29,816 people are in home quarantine, while 17,863 others are in institutional quarantine.
State capital Mumbai reported 5,399 new COVID-19 cases, which pushed its total to 4,14,773.
It also reported 15 deaths, due to which its fatality count grew to 11,690.
Neighbouring Thane city reported 1,039 new cases, while Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation added 913 new cases, the official said.
Pune city and neighbouring Pimpri Chinchwad reported 4,520 and 2,214 new cases respectively.
Rest of the Pune district reported 1,837 cases that indicated a surge in its rural parts.
With this, there are 2,77,218 COVID-19 cases in areas located within the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) limits, 1,35,674 in Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) limits and 1,23,370 in remaining Pune district, he said.
Nashik city recorded 2,941 cases, which took its caseload to 1,17,009.
Other parts of Nashik district reported 1,451 cases, which increased its total to 54,991.
Ahmednagar district reported 1,180 cases, while Jalgaon district's caseload increased by 947 cases.
In the Marathwada region, Aurangabad city reported 732 new cases, while 830 cases were found in Nanded city.
Nagpur city in Vidarbha region reported 31 deaths during the day, highest for the day in the state.
It took its death toll to 2,963.
As many as 1,67,078 coronavirus tests were carried out on Wednesday, which took the overall test count to 1,97,92,143.
Maharashtra's COVID-19 figures are as follows: Positive cases: 28,12,980, new cases: 39,544, death toll: 54,649, discharged: 24,00,727, active cases: 3,56,243, people tested so far: 1,97,92,143.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday brought down the rates of coronavirus RT-PCR tests to Rs 500 from Rs 1,000.
The charges for rapid antigen tests were also brought down.
State Health Minister Rajesh Tope made the announcement.
After the outbreak of the pandemic last year, the charges for a RT-PCR test in the state were Rs 4,500, which were slashed from time-to-time by the state government to ease the burden on people.
"The new rates for RT-PCR test are fixed at Rs 500, Rs 600 and Rs 800. For giving samples at the collection centre, Rs 500 will be charged. For the same test at a Covid Care Centre or a quarantine centre, the charges will be Rs 600 and to collect the swab from home, the labs can charge Rs 800," Dr Pradeep Vyas, principal secretary of public health department, said.
The cost of anti-bodies test will be Rs 250, Rs 300 and Rs 400 for similar services respectively.
"No private lab can charge more than these prescribed rates," he added.
For another test- CLIA- for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, the charges will be Rs 350, Rs 450 and Rs 550 respectively, while for rapid antigen test the amount will be Rs 150, Rs 200 and Rs 300 respectively, Dr Vyas said.
Tope said, "There is ample availability of material required for these tests. Which is why, the state government has decided to bring down the prices of these tests."
The restrictions imposed between March 15 and 31 in Maharashtra's Nagpur by the district administration due to the rise in COVID-19 cases will not be extended further, state minister Nitin Raut said on Wednesday.
However, the curbs and guidelines issued by the state government will be applicable in the district, he said.
Raut, who is Nagpur district guardian minister, on Wednesday held a review meeting with the local officials to assess the pandemic situation.
Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis attended it virtually.
With the surge in COVID-19 cases, restrictions had been imposed in Nagpur district from March 15 to 21, which were later extended till March 31.
Talking to reporters after the review meeting, Raut said that these restrictions will not be extended further.
"The curbs imposed by the district administration will not continue, but the guidelines issued by the state government will be applicable," he said.
Nagpur recorded 1,156 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking its infection count to 2,23,153.
Raut thanked the people for their cooperation and said that the situation is under control in Nagpur as vaccination is going on at 250 centres.
He, however, stressed the need to achieve the vaccination target in the next one-and-a-half month.