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Maharashtra Cabinet favours lockdown till May 31; Vaccination for 18-44 age group halted

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Mumbai, May 12: Maharashtra is likely to extend its lockdown till May 31 to control the spread of coronavirus.

"At the Cabinet meeting, the health department and ministers proposed to extend the lockdown for 15 days. The chief minister will take a final decision on this matter," Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.

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Meanwhile, vaccination for 18-44 age group in Maharashtra has been suspended for the time being due to shortage of vaccines.

Rajesh Tope also revealed that the Serum Institute of India (SII) has informed the Maharashtra government that it would be able to provide 1.5 crore Covishield vaccines to the state only May 20 onwards.

'There is no sufficient supply of vaccine vials by the Centre for inoculation of above-45 age group people. Hence, the state cabinet decided to divert the stock, purchased for the 18-44 age group, for the above-45 age group. Therefore, we are suspending the inoculation of 18-44age group for some period,' Tope said.

While Covishield vaccine is manufactured by Pune-based SII, Covaxin is produced by Bharat Biotech.

'Adar Poonawalla of SII has informed Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray of his ability to supply around 1.5 crore vials of Covishield from May 20 onwards. Once we receive the supply, we will resume the vaccination of 18-44 age group,' the minister said.

On Tuesday, Tope had alleged that the Union government was not fulfilling its responsibility to provide adequate number of vaccine doses to states.

Earlier, 84 per cent of Maharashtra residents supported continuation of lockdown restrictions till May 31, in a survey conducted by LocalCirles in the state. But, at the same time, around 43 per cent of the respondents also suggested allowing home deliveries of all goods to minimise business disruption and for consumer inconvenience.

In a letter to the chief minister, LocalCricles founder and Chairman Sachin Taparia said, "With the current restrictions in Maharashtra in place till May 14, residents and small businesses from the state have been discussing the way forward on LocalCircles."

He added that based on hundreds of comments that were received, LocalCircles conducted a public survey on the way forward regarding extension of restrictions. "Over 18,000 responses were received in this exercise with people from 30 districts of the state."

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Taparia said in the letter that the platform has been quite active in trackling COVID-19 situation on the ground and sensitising the central and state governments on issues faced by people.

"With timely decisions taken by you (Thackeray) in regard to imposing restrictions, Maharashtra has been able to flatten the COVID-19 curve with Mumbai now becoming a case study for many metros on how to implement COVID-19 lockdowns successfully," he said in the letter.

Citing the findings of the survey, the letter said, "84 per cent of Maharashtra residents want lockdown restrictions to continue till May 31, while 43 per cent residents want home deliveries of all goods be permitted to minimize consumer inconvenience."

Also, as many as 71 per cent residents feel home delivery of goods should be the primary model to service them during lockdown/restrictions, among others, Taparia said in the letter.

"Majority of the small businesses, as per the survey, are in favour of the government permitting them to operate in ''home delivery mode only'' to minimise business disruption," the letter stated.

According to LocalCircles, there is a need for enabling businesses to operate in a contactless or home delivery mode only till the COVID-19 situation improves considerably. Such a model will enable businesses to restart some activity and end the disruption to some extent while minimising consumer inconvenience, it added.

It is suggested that the Maharashtra government enables a mechanism where stores are permitted to operate in home delivery mode with no customer walk-ins permitted and orders only placed online, he said in the letter.

While lockdown is the first response to contain the spread of the virus and rightfully so, the above model will ensure business disruption, and consumer inconvenience is minimised, Taparia stated in the letter.

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