Mumbai, fighting a huge spurt in coronavirus cases, will extend the lockdown scheduled to end on May 17, a Maharashtra minister has confirmed. Mumbai has reported nearly 1,000 Covid19 cases on Thursday, taking its total to over 16,500 cases.
Maharashtra's Industry Minister Subhash Desai told NDTV after a meeting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday that the lockdown will be extended in Mumbai and other major cities.
"Looking at the way cases have bene going up in big cities like Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Malegaon, Aurangabad, it seems the lockdown may be extended. It will have to be done because of the situation. The government focus is on the health of the people. The first focus is that. Then of course there is industry and economy," the minister said.
Maharashtra has demanded a special economic package for Mumbai from the centre. Several decisions have been taken to get the economy on track, Mr Desai said.
The minister said Maharashtra is planning major sops for industry to rejuvenate economic activity.
To tackle the problem of migrant labourers leaving the city, which could slow the restart of economic activities, Maharashtra will set up an employment bureau. "We have decided to set up an employment bureau for industrial and commercial workers. And here we will register all those job seekers in skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled categories and then we will interact with the employers who want employees. We will send these employees from our exchange to them," the minister said.
He also revealed that the government was working on a plan to attract investment. "We have forty thousand hectares of open land with us. Our industrial corporations proudly possess such big land parcels across the state in different districts with complete infrastructure. Electricity, water, plots... everything is ready. Maharashtra is also blessed with a skilled manpower pool."
The Industries Minister also told NDTV that businesses and offices have to get used to working with less number of people. "Businesses are now developing a habit of working with less number of people. This will provide an atmosphere for them to work comfortably with smaller number of employees," he said.
Maharashtra is expected to have over 50,000 cases by the end of May with a majority of them in Mumbai.
Besides Mumbai, the lockdown may be extended in Pune, Solapur, Aurangabad and Malegaon, which have had the maximum number of virus cases in the state. Maharashtra has close to 26,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 1,000 deaths.
The nationwide shutdown enforced on March 24 has been extended twice, on April 14 and May 4. The third phase will end on May 17.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday, said there will be a fourth phase of the lockdown, which will be "very different" with new rules.