MUMBAI: With Maharashtra recording over half of the daily coronavirus cases in India, the state government is considering diverting all industrial use oxygen supply for medical use, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Saturday.
In an online interaction with newspaper owners, editors and distributors, Thackeray said a decision on imposing stringent measures to tackle the pandemic will be taken soon but did not confirm if there will be a statewide lockdown.
Maharashtra on Friday reported 47827 new cases, the highest daily rise in around six-and-a-half-months and a chunk of the 89,129 new cases in a day recorded in India.
With the demand for oxygen surging, the state public health department had last month directed oxygen manufacturers to divert 80 per cent of their stocks for medical use and retain the rest 20 per cent for industrial purposes.
Thackeray said the state government is considering diverting even that 20 per cent for medical use, because of the surge in cases and the "alarming" situation in the state.
The daily demand for oxygen in Maharashtra has touched 700 metric tonnes against the state's production capacity of over 1200 metric tonnes, an official said.
A notification stating 80 per cent of capping for medical use was issued on Tuesday.
It said that the rule would apply to all of Maharashtra and stay in force till June 30.
Thackeray said the state government is increasing testing and also not keeping "even a single positive" case under wraps.
The government is also considering steps like opening e-ICUs and increased use of telemedicine in these trying times, he said.
"If there comes a time when someone's livelihood has to be snatched, there is bound to be anguish.
But if there is a dilemma on whether to save a life or a job, then it is important to give priority to life," Thackeray said.
"We have been telling people since last one year. I feel that if all people, be it private offices or shops, had implemented our directives of staggered duty hours, then maybe the situation would not have reached such an alarming level," he said.
The chief minister said office timings should have been divided into 24 hours.
"If staggered timings had been followed, there would have been less strain on local trains and BEST city buses.
Unfortunately, this did not happen," he said.
"We have also stressed on wearing masks, using hand sanitisers and keeping a safe distance. Even the WHO says so. It says that even a person who has been vaccinated needs to follow these rules," Thackeray said.
"So it is not that we did not try. Last year we sent teams to houses. It was possible as there was a lockdown. Even contact tracing of affected persons has become difficult now," he said.
Referring to election rallies in some states amid the pandemic, Thackeray said, "In other states, political rallies of thousands and lakhs of people are happening, but the coronavirus cases are more in Maharashtra than these states," the chief minister said.
He said the media should make people aware that the fight against coronavirus is not only the responsibility of the government but also of the masses.
Fear of coronavirus from the minds of people should be replaced by awareness about the pandemic, he added.
"There should be no politics in this fight against coronavirus," Thackeray said, in an apparent reference to the claim by BJP leaders over his government's handling of the pandemic.