The Associated Press
MUMBAI (AP) - The teeming metropolis of Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, the Indian state worst hit by the pandemic, will face tighter restrictions for 15 days from Wednesday to curb the rise in coronavirus infections.
Senior state officials stressed that the closure of most industries, businesses, public spaces and restrictions on the movement of people would not be a lockdown.
Last year, a sudden, harsh, nationwide lockdown left millions unemployed overnight. Stranded in cities with no income or food, thousands of migrant workers hiked highways to get home. Since then, the heads of state have repeatedly emphasized that a further lockdown is out of the question.
The distinction did little toTo dispel Ramachal Yadav’s fears. On Wednesday morning, he joined thousands of others at a Mumbai train station and got on a train home. “There is no work,” said the 45-year-old.
India has detected over 180,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, around a third in Maharashtra state. India has so far confirmed over 13.9 million cases and 172,000 deaths in some sort of undercount.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said most public spaces, shops and facilities will be closed from 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Expect essential services like grocery stores and banks.
Although the state has announced a $ 728 million aid package that includes aid to the poor, industry experts saythat the new restrictions could prove fatal for companies that have only just recovered from last year’s economic recession.
“Basics of life are important, but life is more important,” said Thackeray, repeating a difficult decision that other states in India had to face.
The scenes that played out in Maharashtra last week mirror those that have unfolded in other parts of the country: patients gasping for breath turned away from running out of oxygen and families crying waiting to say goodbye to loved ones in crematoria.
To make matters worse, India, while being the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, will have enoughto immunize its large population fast enough to slow the virus down.
India announced Tuesday that it would approve vaccines classified as an emergency nod by the World Health Organization or regulators in the US, Europe, UK or Japan, while Indian regulators also approved Russia’s Sputnik V for the emergency. However, experts said the decision is unlikely to have an immediate impact on supplies available in the country.
“You can only imagine that I hope I don’t get sick in the next month,” said Dr. Vineeta Bal who studies the immune system at the Indian Institute for Science Education and Research in the city of Pune in Maharashtra State.
Ghosal reported from New Delhi.
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