Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday stopped short of enforcing a lockdown but announced tough restrictions for the next 15 days that include a ban on gatherings and only essential activities to break the chain of Covid infections that he said were "exploding dangerously" in the state. "The war has begun again," he said, addressing the state on the massive surge in cases.
From today, Section 144 -- a rule that prohibits groups of more than four people -- will be in place across Maharashtra and only essential travel and services will be allowed, said Mr Thackeray, urging people to move to Work From Home and observe a "Janata Curfew" voluntarily. From 7 am to 8 pm only essential services will function, related to health care, banks, media, e-Commerce and fuel.
Shopping centres, malls, film shoots, beaches will be shut. Curbs will remain for hotels and restaurants though home delivery and takeaways will be allowed. Shopkeepers and others in essential services will be fined if they do not follow Covid rules, including vaccination.
The number of people will be limited in political gatherings, weddings and funerals .
The curbs will be in place till May 1.
"Unfortunately I have to announce restrictions. Now is the time for action. I am not saying (there will be) a lockdown just now, but there will be strict restrictions. I know bread and butter is important but saving lives is important too," said the Chief Minister.
In his lead-in to the new restrictions, he said Maharashtra had recorded 60,212 new cases and 281 COVID-19 deaths.
"This is scary."
Mr Thackeray requested military help in tackling oxygen and medicine shortage in the state.
"We are using (oxygen stocks) to the hilt. I told PM (Prime Minister Narendra Modi), looking at the condition, that in the coming days we will need oxygen," he said.
"We are requesting the PM that instead of bringing the oxygen by road, if we can take military's help and get it via air."
Explaining that his government was being tested by the crisis, Mr Thackeray said while the state had postponed the Class 10 and 12 state board exams, "we can't postpone the exam we are facing currently and it is one we have to pass with flying colours."