With the coronavirus cases sharply rising again in some parts of the country, the pandemic situation in India is constantly fluctuating. Although the WHO reported that the number of daily cases reported in India is slowly declining, states like Maharashtra have reported a peak in cases due to the presence of the new strain of the virus that was reported.
Times of India reported, “from February 7-14, the country reported 77,284 cases. In the following week (February 15-21), more than 1 lakh cases were recorded — 31% higher than the preceding week. The spike was led by Maharashtra, which saw an 81% week-on-week rise in recorded infections.”
Maharastra accounted for over 41% of the total cases reported in the country in the third week of February. In the first two weeks, Maharashtra had reported nearly a quarter of the total cases in the country.
Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, also expressed that he was "worried about the severity of a second wave if it hits the state," as Maharashtra has already recorded nearly 52,000 deaths since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Is the new strain impacting the recent rise of cases in Maharashtra?
On Feb 18, Maharashtra reported the presence of a new more transmissible strain of Covid-19 virus in Amravati. Thus, this discovery has been linked with the rise in cases in Amravati and its surrounding districts namely Akola, Amravati, Buldana, Yavatmal, and Washim.
The numbers state that on Feb 7th Amravati district witnessed over 300 new covid cases on a single day for the first time since September. From this day, the count of COVID cases has constantly shot up and on Feb 21st the city reported 1,055 cases. It was witnessed that in one center in the city, 350 out of 700 samples tested positive.
It is believed and feared by Dr. Salunkhe, an advisor to the state government that this spread in Amravati could be hailed from the stretch of Nagpur to Aurangabad.
“Nagpur to Aurangabad is a massive stretch, but with great contact and connectivity...We have a window of 15 days to contain this outbreak before it spreads to the rest of the state and country”, he said.
What are the further implications of this rise of cases in Amravati?
After an analysis of the COVID demographic in each of the 36 districts of Maharashtra, it was observed that around 16 of them have reported a surge in the number of cases. It is important to note that all of these districts either constituted the Amravati division or shared their borders with the corresponding districts of the Amravati division.
Further, in Maharashtra, four districts namely, Pune, Mumbai Suburban, Mumbai City and Ratnagiri were added to the list of places that reported a large number of cases.
An official reported that the COVID-19 tally rose by 710 cases on Monday in Nagpur to reach 1,43,843, while the death toll increased by eight to touch 4,283 during the day.
Live Mint reported on Monday, “Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad cities in Western Maharashtra reported a rise of 336 and 207 cases, respectively.”
How is the government trying to control cases now?
This sudden rise in cases within Maharashtra is associated with the increase in indifference and carelessness related to COVID-19.
To control the massive spread of cases, a week-long complete lockdown has been imposed by the state government. Shailesh Naval, the Collector from the Amravati District stated, “A curfew will be imposed in Amravati Municipal Corporation and Achalpur Municipal Council limits from 8 pm on February 22 to 6 am on March 1. During this curfew, only essentials shops will be open from 8 am to 3 pm.”
Maharashtra minister Nitin Raut has established strict restrictions in Nagpur to keep a check on the growing numbers. "Due to rising COVID-19 cases in Nagpur district, schools, colleges, and coaching classes to remain closed till March 7. Main markets to remain closed on weekends. Hotels, restaurants to run at 50 percent capacity and marriage halls to be closed after February 25 till March 7," Raut said.
In the light of growing cases in Pune, a night curfew has been placed. Saurabh Rao, Divisional Commissioner Pune division on Sunday stated, "From 11 pm to 6 am no public movement will be allowed in the district except those involved in essential activities/work. Newspaper distributions, vegetable sellers those going to hospitals will be allowed.” “ However unnecessary movement will be completely restricted during this period. We have taken this decision as an advance precaution”, he further added.
To highlight the vaccination situation in Maharashtra, an official statement stated that on Monday, 36,182 individuals were inoculated the first dose of the vaccine while the remaining 21,185 were administered the second dose. Hence, the total tally of inoculations so far in Maharastra is 9,83,830.
It is predicted that if this rise in cases continues to persist, and the situation is not taken seriously, Maharashtra might have to opt for a second complete lockdown.
In a video address, Thackeray said, "Do you want lockdown? The next eight days will decide. Maharashtra has reported around 7,000 COVID cases today. If the COVID-19 situation deteriorates, then we have to impose lockdown. Those who want a lockdown can roam around without mask while those who do not want it must wear a mask and follow all the rules."