Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday hinted at reopening places of religious worship, saying a standard operating procedure for avoiding crowds and ensuring physical distancing there will be drafted after Diwali.
In a webcast, Thackeray said he is getting flak for going slow on reopening of places of religious worship.
"I am ready for brickbats if it ensures good health and safety of citizens. How to avoid crowds and ensure physical distancing in places of worship will be worked out and a standard operating procedure will be drafted after Diwali.
"We are so involved in offering prayers and may neglect COVID-19 safety protocols. What if a coronavirus positive person infects senior citizens from our families who visit the places of worship," he said.
Thackeray said wearing of masks will be mandatory in places of worship.
He also appealed people to avoid bursting firecrackers in public places.
"I don't want to enforce a ban. Let us have faith and trust in each other," he said.
He said Delhi is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, adding it is said pollution was the cause.
"Let us have self control and restrain from bursting firecrackers which will lead to pollution. Let us not waste nine months' of hard work against the pandemic during four days of Diwali celebrations," he said.
Thackeray said the state is opening up slowly.
"But we have to be cautious and ensure there is no second wave (of the pandemic)," he added.
"Crowds seen in the market places is a sign of life returning to normalcy but don't be complacent. We have no option but to wear masks, ensure physical distancing and continue washing hands till a vaccine is found," he said.
"The fortnight after Diwali will be crucial. Let us not invite a second lockdown. If a coronavirus positive person moves in a crowd without wearing a face mask, he will infect around 400 persons and those 400 will in turn infect several more," he said.
'Can't afford a second wave in Maha'
Thackeray said that although the infection cases were going down in the state, the pandemic was far from over.
He said several countries were facing the second wave of coronavirus now, but the state cannot afford to have another such wave.
Thackeray said this while virtually performing the 'bhoomi pujan' ceremony of an art gallery in Mira Bhayandar township in Thane district of the state.
"Even if the number of coronavirus cases in the state is going down, the pandemic is not over yet. If you look at the global situation, many countries are facing the second wave now. But we cannot afford to have a second wave," he said.
"Therefore, people should not take things lightly. They should follow all the guidelines and norms," he added.
"The state government has so far relaxed several curbs. But the use of face mask is a must and it should continue for a longer period for the safety of people. We have to make sure that no second wave hits us," the chief minister said.
Thackeray said that when the pandemic began, there were only three testing laboratories in the state.
"But the number of such labs has now gone up to around 500 in the state. Likewise the number of beds for coronavirus patients has grown to 3.75 lakh from around 4,000 in the beginning," he said.
On the occasion, he also inaugurated a COVID-19 testing lab and a molecular testing lab in the township.