Lockdown to be lifted very gradually: Maha Minister

Lockdown removal to be very gradual: Maharashtra chief secretary

 Migrants walk to Lokmanya Tilak Terminus to catch a special train to reach their native places, during ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, in Mumbai, Tuesday, May 26, 2020. (PTI Photo)

The lockdown removal will happen in a "very very gradual" and calibrated manner, Maharashtra Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta said on Tuesday even as he cautioned of a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases and that steps will be taken up accordingly.

He said whenever relaxations will be given, people will be duly informed two days or so in advance so that there will be no panic in moving out.

The ongoing lockdown will be in force in Maharashtra till May 31.

"If you see, the lockdown removal is going to be very very gradual and calibrated. Lockdown cannot be reversed in one go. It doesn't happen suddenly," Mehta told reporters during a briefing held online.

He was accompanied by principal health secretary Pradeep Vyas and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner IS Chahal during the press conference.

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Noting that the lockdown removal is a "huge" policy initiative that has to be thought out well through, Mehta said the government has a team of senior officials led by additional chief secretary (finance) which is strategising on how to ease the lockdown.

The top bureaucrat said the first thing that weighs on the government's mind before easing the lockdown is the extent and acceleration of infection in a particular area.

"The second thing that weighs on our mind is, once you remove the lockdown, there definitely, definitely I repeat, there will be a surge in cases.

"Let's not remain in any fool's paradise that the cases will not surge. The minute you remove the lockdown or relax the lockdown, there will be a surge in cases of course," he added.

The chief secretary noted that Maharashtra has managed to keep the death rate low in the state and has access to best medical advice.

"Now, if we have to maintain the low death rate and take it down further, the issue is do you have enough health infrastructure to manage the surge? So, whenever you remove lockdown these things are kept in mind," he added.

Mehta said at least 95 per cent COVID-19 cases in the states are concentrated in 25 municipal corporation areas.

He said the government will be mindful which corporation areas have the healthcare facilities available which can take care of possible surge in case there.

"We have still kept one precaution in place that there will be no inter-district movement because the danger is that the cross infection can be very heavy.

"In case you want to move, we said there has to be a quarantine facility in place. However, within the district you are permitted to move,"" he added.

He said that the lockdown period has given time for authorities to increase the number of beds of COVID-19 patients.

Mehta said the government is looking at opening things which are needed/necessities.

"However, I can assure you one thing that as we ease the lockdown, which will happen in a calibrated manner, we will be informing in advance that two days down the line this will open, then further two days down the line that will open.

"So that people get the time to prepare, there is no panic moving out," he added.

When asked about the World Health Organisation deciding to temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments, Pradeep Vyas said the Maharashtra government will go ahead with the Indian Council of Medical Researchs (ICMR) guidelines on its dosage.

"The (hydroxychloroquine) doses which were suggested by ICMR are different from what WHO was suggesting. So, we are going ahead with the ICMR suggested doses and guidelines. And we have no adverse reaction," he added.

He said the cases of serious side effects of consumption of hydroxychloroquine in India has been "only three" in the country.

"So, the advantage outweighs the potential risk and in a monitored view it can be given," he added.

Civic chief Chahal said the BMC had prepared a standard operating procedure to pack and dispose of bodies of COVID-19 victims.

"We have appointed class 4 staffers at (civic-run) Nair, Sion and KEM hospitals the staffers have been asked to do only the job of packing the bodies on 30 minutes and disposing them of in the next 30 minutesthe (bodies) congestion issue at hospitals will be dealt with," Chahal added. 

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