MUMBAI: Reeling under the burden of daily case surge, the Maharashtra government on Sunday introduced a raft of strict measures like weekend and night curfews, but stopped short of a complete lockdown to cushion its economy.
The new measures include a weekend curfew, starting 8 pm Friday to 7 am Monday; and strict night restrictions between 8 pm and 7 am, starting Monday (April 5).
Only essential services would be allowed to operate unhindered till April 30, after which the restrictions could be eased based on an assessment of the outcome of the measures.
The decision was taken at an urgent cabinet meeting, during which the chief minister proposed a complete lockdown, an idea his colleagues opposed, pointing out its economic fallout.
Based on the inputs, Thackeray also decided to impose restrictions on gatherings by promulgating CrPC section 144, but made exemptions for commercial establishments and industries.
NCP minister Nawab Malik said that the decision was unanimous, and would be in force between April 5 and April 30.
“The decision is aimed at saving lives with minimal impact on economy. We consulted BJP and MNS before making the announcement,” he said.
The weekend lockdown will start from 8 pm on Fridays and last till 7 am on Mondays.
Besides, prohibitory orders will be in force during daytime on weekdays, the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said in a statement.
Except the essential services shops, medical shops and grocery shops, all other shops, markets and shopping malls will be closed till April 30.
All these new restrictions will come into effect from Monday 8 pm and will be called 'Break the Chain' instead of 'Mission Begin Again', a campaign that was launched by the state government for phase-wise reopening of lockdown last year.
A decision to implement these restrictions was taken during the special meeting of the council of ministers chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray through video-conferencing on Sunday.
All private offices, except in banking, stock market, insurance, pharma, telecommunication and mediclaim sectors, will be shut as part of these restrictions.
Work from home is mandatory for private offices, except those in local disaster management, electricity and water supply, the statement said.
Government offices, except those departments involved in COVID-19 management, will function at 50 per cent of their capacity.
Official meetings will be held online and visitors will be barred from entering government offices, it added.
Section 144 of the CrPC will be in place in the state from 7 am to 8 pm to prohibit gathering of more than five persons at one place during the day time.
Night curfew will be in place from 8 pm to 7 am.
But medical and essential services have been exempted from the night curfew.
Gardens, beaches and all public places will be closed from 8 pm to 7 am.
If the local administration feels that people crowd these places duringdaytime without observing physical distancing, they will be closed down, it said.
Public and private transport systems will continue to operate.
Taxis and autorickshaws will ferry 50 per cent of their total capacity at a time.
There will be no standing passengers in public and private buses and masks will be mandatory, the new guidelines said.
Bus drivers, conductors and other employees must have COVID-19 negative test report or get themselves vaccinated at the earliest.
Schools, colleges and private coaching classes will be closed.
However, exams for Classes 10 and 12 will take place as announced earlier.
The railway administration has been asked to ensure that outstation trains do not have standing passengers and everyone should have face masks, it said.
Places of entertainment like theatres, cinema halls, video parlours, multiplexes, clubs, swimming pools, sports complexes, auditoriums, water parks will remain shut.
While places of worship will also be closed for devotees, religious rituals there will continue.
Priests and staff at the religious places should get themselves vaccinated immediately.
Only take-away and parcel services will be available from restaurants and bars and road-side eateries will also do business only for take-away and parcel service.
E-commerce services will continue from 7 am to 8 pm .
Home-delivery employees need to get vaccinated, failing which the delivery person will be fined Rs 1,000 and the company Rs 10,000.
Salons, beauty parlours will be closed and the staff should get vaccinated at the earliest, the guidelines said.
Newspaper printing and distribution will continue.
In the essential services shops, employees should get themselves vaccinated at the earliest and ensure that COVID- appropriate behaviour is followed in their premises.
Agriculture-related activities, includingtransport of food grains and agriculture produce will continue uninterrupted.
Industrial and manufacturing sector will not stop, but they will have to take all necessary COVID-19 precautions.
Film and TV shoots will continue and coronavirus testing of all crew members has to be carried out.
This will be implemented from April 10.
The statement said construction workers will not be taken off their jobs if they fall ill of COVID-19.
Construction work would continue only if the premises has facility for workers' accommodation.
If a worker falls ill, he would be paid full wages.
If a housing society has more than five COVID-19 patients, that building will be declared as a "mini containment" zone.
A board will be put up and outsiders will be banned from entering.
The government said these restrictions have been imposed by taking care that they will not hurt the economic cycle and livelihood of people.
The chief minister said he has spoken to all the stakeholders and sought their cooperation in strict implementation of the curbs.
(With PTI Inputs)