INDIA’s financial capital Mumbai imposed fresh coronavirus restrictions on Monday(22) as a rise in cases in the worst-affected region sparked fears of a new wave, while the country’s vast inoculation drive fell behind schedule.
All religious, social and political gatherings are banned in the city and the surrounding western state of Maharashtra, home to 110 million people, after infections spiked to levels last seen in October.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said he was “worried about the severity of a second wave if it hits the state,” which has recorded nearly 52,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
“The simple mantra is wear a mask, follow discipline and avoid lockdown. We will review the situation again in the next eight days and decide on a lockdown,” Thackeray said in a live television address on Sunday(21).
Maharastra alone reported nearly 7,000 new cases on Sunday, a steep rise from just 2,000 cases earlier this month, with fears heightened by the appearance of new strains of the virus in parts of the country.
“We just cannot afford to impose a second lockdown, people will have to follow the guidelines or else we could see a massive second wave,” said S D Patil, a member of the Maharastra government team monitoring the spread of the disease in a state that accounts for nearly a fifth of India’s confirmed cases.
In Pune, the state’s second largest city, an official said the percentage of people testing positive for the virus had doubled in a little over two weeks.
India’s tough nationwide lockdown imposed in March has largely been relaxed, with even its famously lavish weddings and cricket crowds returning, albeit with numbers capped.
Daily new cases peaked at more than 97,000 in September but have been falling sharply, coming in at under 9,000 a day earlier this month.
But the past two weeks have seen an uptick, with around 14,000 new infections on Monday, the biggest rise coming in Maharashtra, taking India’s total past 11 million since the pandemic began with 156,000 deaths.
In the capital New Delhi, which on Monday recorded just 46 new infections and two deaths in the crowded megacity of 20 million, locals said that they were still concerned.
India began vaccinating healthcare and other frontline workers from mid-January, aiming to inoculate 300 million people — or 600 million shots in a two-dose regime — by July.
But at the current pace, with 11.1 million shots given as of Monday, that will take several years.