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COVID-19: Section 144 kicks in Maharashtra, state sees massive oxygen shortage


MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday asked officials to closely monitor COVID-19-appropriate behaviour among shop owners, who have been allowed to operate during the new restrictions, as well as customers, and penalise the violators.

In a virtual meeting with his cabinet colleagues, divisional commissioners, district collectors, municipal commissioners and police officials, Thackeray stressed on effective implementation of the measures which came into force at 8 pm and will remain in operation 7 am on May 1.

He said officials should ensure that vegetable vendors and grocery shop owners, who have been allowed to operate during the "lockdown-like" restrictions, scrupulously follow COVID-19-related norms like social distancing and use of face masks to avoid the infection spread.

"If crowding happens, the officials can shut down the shops," he said.

Thackeray asked them to keep an eye of marriage ceremonies so that they do not become super-spreading events.

The state has noticed that marriage ceremonies were one of the reasons behind the COVID-19 spread.

"The district administration and police should ensure that mistakes committed in the past are not repeated," the chief minister said.

Under the new curbs, only 25 people can attend a marriage.


The state's COVID-19 task force members stressed on avoiding indiscriminate use of Remdesivir medicine which is causing its shortage.

There should be sensible approach towards the use of Remdesivir, a key COVID-19 drug, and medical oxygen, they told the meeting.

All essential services, including medical stores, hospitals, supply of medicines, among others will remain operational, according to a government notification.

Barber shops, saloons, spas, schools, colleges, coaching classes, beaches, clubs, swimming pools, gyms, drama theatres and cinema halls will remain shut during the next 15 days, according to the notification.

Though roadside eateries are allowed to operate during the period, buyers can not consume food on the street and only takeaway will be available, it said.

DGP Sanjay Pandey on Wednesday said that no e-pass is required to be obtained for the movement of vehicles during the coronavirus-induced restrictions imposed in the state.

He said that only those vehicles that are involved in emergency services and those private vehicles that come out with a valid reason are allowed to operate during the restrictions.

Asking the people to cooperate with the government machinery in the fight against COVID-19 by not stepping out of their houses during the curbs, he said the police personnel should not penalise or lathi charge if any person comes out on the street with a valid reason of essential or emergency work.

He was addressing a press conference for the first time after taking over additional charge of the state Director General of Police (DGP).

He was given the additional charge last week.

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday announced severe, curfew-like restrictions on public movement over the next 15 days across the state to curb the COVID-19 surge.

"This is a war against the virus and we have to win it by following the guidelines issued by the government to prevent its spread and by helping the authorities, who are on the streets for common citizens," Pandey said.

If someone comes out on the street despite being aware of the strict implementation of the prohibitory orders, then there must be some urgency for him.

In that case, the police should help such a person, he said.

"There are clear instructions that there should not be any hurdles created for those persons, who are out for essential and emergency work. They should not be penalised," Pandey said.

The police personnel should not lathi charge such persons and they should get proper assistance, he said.

"But if anyone is found coming out without any valid or proper reason despite the instructions, then stern action will be taken against the violator," he said.

There is no requirement for e-pass for essential and emergency services and for the private vehicles that come out on the streets during the restrictions with a valid reason, he said.

"We had requested the government not to implement e- pass system. Accordingly, there is no requirement of e-pass for travel," he said.

During the coronavirus-induced lockdown last year, people were required to carry e-pass for travel in vehicles.

Pandey said that all the grocery shops will be open during the period of restrictions and all kind of public transport is also operational, he said.

Police and all the frontline workers are fighting this war for the safety of citizens, he said, adding, "We need their cooperation and they only have only to stay at home."

The people, who work in the exempted category, should carry ID cards, valid letters for verification by government authorities, while checking for violation of government guidelines, he said.

Implementation of the government orders will strictly be done during the night also, he said, adding that for any confusion and queries people can contact the local police stations and police control rooms.

"All police officers and other personnel will be on the roads in two shifts," he said, adding that around 13,280 home guards have been deployed in all the police commissionerates and districts," he said.

At least 22 companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) will be deployed if required, the official said.

At least 81 per cent police personnel have been vaccinated against coronavirus, and this figure excludes the staff in Mumbai city, he said.

has approached neighbouring states for medical oxygen supply amid the COVID-19 surge, but they have expressed their inability due to its high demand there, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Wednesday.

Talking to reporters here, Tope said Maharashtra will have to reduce the wastage of medical oxygen as it is in high demand now.

He told reporters in Jalna that the state government has directed oxygen manufacturers to supply it only for medical purposes and not for industrial use.

Medical-grade oxygen is used for the treatment of critical COVID-19 patients and in other cases of respiratory diseases.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday said there is a shortage of medical oxygen and the Centre should help supply it for coronavirus patients in the state by using Air Force planes.

On Wednesday, Tope said, "We have approached all the neighbouring states like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to supply oxygen for medical purpose, but owing to their own rising demand, these states have expressed their inability to supply oxygen."

Hence, Maharashtra needs to reduce its wastage and work on fixing its leakages (wherever found), he said.

On Monday, Tope said plants in Maharashtra are producing 1,200 metric tonnes of oxygen per day and the entire stock is being used for medical purposes in view of the rising COVID-19 cases.

The demand is expected to go up to 1,500 to 1,600 metric tonnes every day, state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Minister Rajendra Shingne said on Tuesday.

Tope earlier said the state government had decided to set up plants in hospitals which can separate and purify oxygen from the atmosphere and provide it to patients.

Speaking to reporters in Jalna, Tope said the state government has directed oxygen manufacturers to supply it only for medical purposes and not for industrial use.

He said district collectors should take action against erring manufacturers.

He said the state health department is planning to generate oxygen through Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) technology to tide over the oxygen shortage.

"This technology is already in place in Gadhinglaj town in Kolhapur district and now the PSA system is being set up in Ghansawangi tehsil in Jalna district and also in Nagpur.

"It is a simple technology which incurs low cost. PSA is the air separation technology and oxygen is generated from the environment," the health minister said.

On the shortage of Remdesivir injections for COVID-19 patients, Tope directed Jalna district collector and the Food Drugs Administration (FDA) to supply them to private hospitals via a centralised method.

"We have started to distributeRemdesivir injections to private hospitals through the district administration," he said.

Tope said 10,000 injections of Remdesivir were distributed to private hospitals in Jalna on Wednesday.

He said the district administration should purchase Remdesivir directly from the manufacturers after assessing the demand from private hospitals, which will prevent hoarding.

The health minister appealed to private hospitals to use Remdesivir drug judiciously and as per the guidelines issued by the COVID-19 task force.

"It is observed that some private hospitals are prescribing this injection to even moderate and asymptotic patients," he added.