Amid demands from certain quarters to reconsider the face mask rule in view of the declining COVID-19 graph in Maharashtra, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Sunday ruled out any such relaxation though he said that the third wave of the pandemic almost ended.
Mr Tope's comments come a day after Maharashtra reported 893 COVID-19 cases and eight fatalities due to the infection.
"The peak of the third wave had seen 48,000 cases per day in Maharashtra. Now the number of fresh cases is not even ten per cent (as compared with the peak). The number of active cases is around 9,000 now," Mr Tope told reporters in Jalna.
When asked about further relaxation of COVID-19 norms, including doing away with the face mask rule, Mr Tope said, "Chief Minister (Uddhav Thackeray) is constantly saying that we cannot assume that that COVID pandemic is over. So the decision on mask liberty will be taken after careful consideration".
The Maharashtra government had on Tuesday stressed the need to continue to observe COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing and frequently sanitising hands though it withdrew the orders issued on separate dates in July and August 2021 and the SOP dated August 10.
Mr Tope said that the third wave is almost ended and the government is gradually easing the restrictions.
"The third wave of the pandemic is almost ended. But we should continue to be vigilant and not lower our guard," he said.
Responding to a query, Mr Tope ruled out Maharashtra being made mask free soon. "No such proposal is under our consideration," he added.
He also expressed concern over the expiry of 1.50 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Mumbai and called for a national policy to prevent wastage of the doses.
Mr Tope said the Maharashtra government is following the guidelines of the COVID Task Force and the Union government on the administration of a booster dose. "There is no demand for administering the booster dose to all," the health minister added.