Public health minister Rajesh Tope, too, said a complete lockdown would be unaffordable for the state.
While the state is not likely to regulate timings of regular shops, places with high footfalls, such as malls, restaurants and cinema halls, could be completely shut.
These establishments have been only allowed to keep open till 8pm since Sunday. Unrestricted delivery and take-home services will be allowed though. Senior officials said local trains are not likely to be shut for the common public. The state will implement a strict vigil on gatherings such as weddings and funerals.
State working out a plan to balance economic activities: Health minister
State chief secretary Sitaram Kunte, who is reviewing the Covid-19 situation in the state, may issue new guidelines by the end of this week.
Aseem Gupta, secretary, state relief and rehabilitation department, told TOI: “Discussions are on for stricter measures in Maharashtra. But, at this moment, a100% lockdown is not in the offing. Nobody is advocating a full lockdown, including the Union government. Currently, in the foreseeable future, the aim is to ensure stricter restrictions and make their implementation foolproof, instead of a full lockdown like last year.”
Tope said the state is working out a plan to keep a balance between economic activities and restrictions. “A complete lockdown will be unaffordable for the state. However, with cases rising and the possibility of shortage in healthcare infrastructure, some strict measures will have to be taken,” he said.
A government official said the state does not want people to sit at home but continue with their jobs by adhering to all the rules, as employment and the state economy should not be adversely affected.
Dr Subhash Salunke, state advisor on Covid-19 control, told TOI a pan-Maharashtra lockdown like last year was out of the question. “Pan-state lockdown is a bygone story and is out of the question. However, as an alternative to an absolute lockdown, strict implementation of local containment measures is the solution, along with stringent action against those who violate Covid-appropriate behaviour. We will suggest a six-point plan to the authorities, including alternatives such as communication strategies, extension of the vaccination drive, local community responsibility, and timely access to private and public health facilities so that a total lockdown could be avoided,” he said.
On the state orders that more than five people will not be allowed in public places, BMC commissioner I S Chahal clarified it was not a lockdown but only a restriction on assembly of persons. “Trains and buses will continue to run. One can travel by private cars if there are not more than five persons. But to ensure the virus does not spread in night clubs, crowded restaurants, beaches, malls and market gatherings, we want these places to shut after 8pm,” said Chahal.
Meanwhile, a day after NCP opposed a lockdown, Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said if it is inevitable, the state should give advance notice and it should be for a minimum period. “The government should adequately compensate for loss of jobs. Daily wages should be directly transferred in the account of the labourers. The government should utilise MP and MLA area development funds for the purpose,” Chavan said in a statement.