All districts in Maharashtra must impose at least Level 3 restrictions irrespective of indices like weekly positivity rate and hospital beds availability to prevent the spread of the more dangerous Delta Plus Covid variant, the state's Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte has said in an order. Maharashtra on Friday reported the first death from the "Delta Plus" variant of COVID-19, with an elderly woman dying in Ratnagiri civil hospital, a senior official said.
"Given that the virus causing Covid 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weekly positivity rate and oxygen bed occupancy percentage to remain at a level not below 3 is to be in operation till withdrawn by specific order of SDMA," the order reads.
Under Level 3 restrictions, restaurants, gyms, salons, spas can be allowed to open till 4 pm with 50 per cent occupancy; private offices can operate with 50 per cent occupancy; marriages with 50 guests and funerals with 20 people are allowed; malls and theatres must remain shut.
The Delta Plus variant, a variant of concern in India, has been linked to characteristics like increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response. It has been detected in some Maharashtra districts.
The officer said the weekly positivity rate must be used as a marker to decide on the levels of restrictions. However, the rate should be calculated on the basis of the gold standard RT-PCR tests, not RAT. "Data for this shall be made available by the Public Health Department," he added.
"While coming down onto a lower level, DDMA (district disaster management authorities) shall look into two weeks' trend before accepting lower level of restrictions. When there is an upward trend in 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," the circular reads.
The district administrations will have to ensure that easing restrictions do not lead to a spike in cases, he said, adding anti-Covid rules must be strictly enforced, and violators fined.
He also asked the districts to try and vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the population as soon as possible.
Dr Anurag Agarwal, the Director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), told NDTV on Thursday that there was no evidence to suggest the new variant can trigger a possible third wave.