Amid indications of COVID-19 cases plateauing in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday warned there was no room for showing complacency and said the government is preparing to deal with a third wave of the infection.
He said though some districts have shown a steady decline in COVID-19 cases, some others are still exhibiting an upward trend, but the number of patients under treatment has dropped from what it was in April-end.
Mr Thackeray said he has asked officials to work in a mission mode to ramp up the production of medical oxygen, used in treating serious COVID-19 patients, ahead of the third wave of the infection hitting Maharashtra, the worst coronavirus-affected state in the country.
"We are preparing for the third wave of the virus," Mr Thackeray said addressing the state on social media.
The CM said the people of the state, where lockdown-like curbs are in place to stem the infection spread, should not become complacent just because there is a downward trend in coronavirus cases.
Mr Thackeray said, "Though some districts have shown a decline in cases, we need to be ready for the third wave of COVID-19. The state task force on COVID-19 is currently engaged in guiding family doctors in district and tehsil places about treatment protocols. It will enable them to make accurate diagnosis and avoid over prescription of medicines."
Mr Thackeray said the Supreme Court has appreciated the Mumbai municipal corporation's work to contain the coronavirus spread in the financial capital.
"As on April 25, there were almost seven lakh active cases in Maharashtra. The figure came down to 6,41,900 as on May 4. We have been able to control the cases up to some extent, but some districts are still showing a surge in COVID-19 cases. We have so far set up 4.5 lakh isolation beds, one lakh oxygen beds, 30,000 ICU beds and 12,000 ventilators," he said.
Mr Thackeray said the state will have to increase oxygen generation capacity to 3,000 MT and has started working on it.
"We generate 1,200 MT oxygen every day but our consumption is 1,700 MT. I have given a target to officials to increase the production capacity to 3,000 MT before we hit by the third wave of COVID-19. I call it mission oxygen," he said.
On Wednesday, Maharashtra reported 57,640 new COVID-19 cases and 920 deaths.
Terming the Supreme Court's decision to strike down reservation in jobs and education for the Marathas as disappointing, Mr Thackeray said he will write to the Centre, requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind to step in and provide relief to the community.
"I am requesting the Centre with folded hands to award reservation to the Maratha community. I am going to write a letter to the Centre regarding the demand. If required, we can meet personally also for Maratha reservation," he said.
The Supreme Court, in its ruling on the Maratha quota, reaffirmed the Centre's key role in awarding reservation to a social group, he said.
"The Maharashtra government will provide all types of documentation and help to the Centre to take a decision (in favour of Maratha quota)," the chief minister said.
"While the Supreme Court rejected the act, it also showed us the path to get reservation for the Maratha community. The court told the state government that we do not have a right to make such a legislation, but the Centre has," he said.
"The way the Centre showed urgency to scrap Article 370 (which provided special status to J&K), it should demonstrate a similar will to clear the Maratha reservation as well," he said.
Mr Thackeray appealed to people of the state not to be misled by those wanting to create unrest over the Maratha quota issue.
"The decision (to quash quota) was a bit disappointing as both the assembly and the council of the Maharashtra legislature had approved the (reservation) bill unanimously and the law was upheld by the Bombay High Court as well," he said.
"The lawyers who successfully defended the act in the Bombay High Court, were also there to represent the state in the Supreme Court. We had equipped them with more legal resources," said the chief minister.
"Still, some people are blaming us for losing the case in the top court," Mr Thackeray said in a veiled attack on the BJP.
The opposition party has said the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government "failed" to convince the Supreme Court over the issue of reservation for the Maratha community.
Former Maharashtra chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis claimed there was a lack of co-ordination on part of the state government while making its submissions before the top court.