The tough new measures announced by the Maharashtra government for the next 15 days to break the COVID-19 transmission chain came into force on Wednesday night with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray directing officials to ensure their strict implementation.
The "lockdown-like" restrictions, which exclude essential services, became operational at 8 pm and will remain in force till 7 am on May 1.
Thackeray, in his address via social media to the people of the state on Tuesday night, had announced the sweeping restrictions, curtailing the movement of people and non-essential activities, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country's worst-hit state.
Section 144 of CrPC, prohibiting assembly of five or more people at one spot, will be in force during the period, Thackeray had said, but refrained from terming the new curbs as a lockdown.
In a video conference meeting on Wednesday with his cabinet colleagues, divisional commissioners, district collectors, municipal commissioners and police officials, Thackeray stressed on effective implementation of the measures.
There should not be any confusion about the orders issued by the state. If anyone has doubts, the official should contact his or her superiors or the department concerned.
"We can not afford to be callous and let the coronavirus infection spread further, the chief minister said.
Thackeray said efforts are on to make available medical oxygen which is needed in treatment of critical COVID-19 patients.
We have seen a mutation in the coronavirus strain. It is spreading at a higher speed and affecting the youth in large numbers.
"Efforts are underway on a war footing to make oxygen available for patients. Doctors should get themselves updated about the treatment of COVID-19 patients, he said.
He asked jumbo COVID-19 care centres and hospitals to undertake safety measures, including fire audits of their buildings.
All jumbo centres as well as hospitals should complete their fire audits and building strength assessment to avoid damage from pre-monsoon gusty winds," Thackeray said.
"There should not be any carelessness in implementing these instructions, said the chief minister.
All essential services, including medical stores, hospitals, supply of medicines, among others will remain operational, according to a government notification.
The local transport, including Mumbai's suburban trains, will function only for personnel involved in essential services, it said.
Activities such as the ongoing vaccination drive, oxygen production, home delivery of food, operation of e- commerce firms, work at construction sites with residential facility and industrial units, where accommodation or
transportation of personnel is available, will also remain unaffected, the notification said.
All banking and financial services, the RBI and its affiliated offices, insurance offices and pre-monsoon works will operate as usual.
However, there will be a complete ban on religious, social, cultural and political functions in the state till May 1, the notification said.
The number of participants at marriage and funeral has been capped at 25 and 20, respectively.
Barber shops, saloons, spas, schools, colleges, coaching classes, beaches, clubs, swimming pools, gyms, drama theatres and cinema halls will remain shut during the next 15 days, according to the notification.
Though roadside eateries are allowed to operate during the period, buyers can not consume food on the street and only takeaway will be available, it said.
No e-pass needed for vehicle movement during Maha curbs
Maharashtra's in-charge DGP Sanjay Pandey on Wednesday said that no e-pass is required to be obtained for the movement of vehicles during the coronavirus-induced restrictions imposed in the state.
He said that only those vehicles that are involved in emergency services and those private vehicles that come out with a valid reason are allowed to operate during the restrictions.
Asking the people to cooperate with the government machinery in the fight against COVID-19 by not stepping out of their houses during the curbs, he said the police personnel should not penalise or lathi charge if any person comes out on the street with a valid reason of essential or emergency work.
He was addressing a press conference for the first time after taking over additional charge of the state Director General of Police. He was given the additional charge last week.
The Maharashtra government on Tuesday announced severe, curfew-like restrictions on public movement over the next 15 days across the state to curb the COVID-19 surge.
"This is a war against the virus and we have to win it by following the guidelines issued by the government to prevent its spread and by helping the authorities, who are on the streets for common citizens," Pandey said.
If someone comes out on the street despite being aware of the strict implementation of the prohibitory orders, then there must be some urgency for him. In that case, the police should help such a person, he said.
"There are clear instructions that there should not be any hurdles created for those persons, who are out for essential and emergency work. They should not be penalised," Pandey said.
The police personnel should not lathi charge such persons and they should get proper assistance, he said.
"But if anyone is found coming out without any valid or proper reason despite the instructions, then stern action will be taken against the violator," he said.
There is no requirement for e-pass for essential and emergency services and for the private vehicles that come out on the streets during the restrictions with a valid reason, he said.
"We had requested the government not to implement e-pass system. Accordingly, there is no requirement of e-pass for travel," he said.
During the coronavirus-induced lockdown last year, people were required to carry e-pass for travel in vehicles.
Pandey said that all the grocery shops will be open during the period of restrictions and all kind of public transport is also operational, he said.
Police and all the frontline workers are fighting this war for the safety of citizens, he said, adding, "We need their cooperation and they only have only to stay at home."
The people, who work in the exempted category, should carry ID cards, valid letters for verification by government authorities, while checking for violation of government guidelines, he said.
Implementation of the government orders will strictly be done during the night also, he said, adding that for any confusion and queries people can contact the local police stations and police control rooms.
"All police officers and other personnel will be on the roads in two shifts," he said, adding that around 13,280 home guards have been deployed in all the police commissionerates and districts," he said.
At least 22 companies of the State Reserve Police Force will be deployed if required, the official said.
At least 81 per cent police personnel have been vaccinated against coronavirus, and this figure excludes the staff in Mumbai city, he said.