NAGPUR/PUNE: Worried by the surge in Covid-19 cases in Vidarbha, state relief and rehabilitation minister Vijay Wadettiwar on Saturday warned of a night curfew — not a six- or seven-hour curfew but a12-hour one “between 5 pm and 5 am” — in parts of the region if the situation deteriorates. He said a final decision would be taken after a meeting with CM Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai next week.
He also said a harsh penalty of Rs 1 lakh will be imposed on wedding halls allowing more than 50 people.
But public health experts said the government should not enforce lockdowns but focus on the small clusters reporting a rise in cases. Dr Subhash Salunke, advisor to the state on Covid control, said the spurt in cases is not uniform. “The rise is limited to some clusters; not every area is affected. Administrators need to ensure stricter vigilance only in these clusters.”
‘Impose lockdowns only if there’s no other solution’
Dr Subhash Salunke, advisor to the state on Covid control, said lockdowns would prove counterproductive. The districts of Amravati and Yavatmal recently imposed restrictions with the former enforcing a “weekend lockdown” to prevent overcrowding in marketplaces. Dr Salunke said such brief lockdown spells do not help to stop the spread. He added that local administrations, instead of enforcing wider lockdowns, should focus on micro containment zones where curbs should stay in place for more than 10 days, at least.
Wadettiwar seemed to favour harsher action. “The entire Vidarbha region is witnessing a spike in cases. Even in Nagpur, over 750 cases were reported on Friday. The government has already declared a partial lockdown in Amravati, Wardha and Yavatmal. If fresh cases jump, the government needs to take strict measures like a night curfew,” the told TOI.
Wadettiwar said the state government would ask district administrations — including collectors and municipal commissioners — to take a final call on lockdowns depending on conditions in their areas. “During curfew, all places like marriage halls, markets, cinema halls and others where crowds gather would be closed. The surge is due to a majority of people becoming careless and not following Covid-19 protocols like wearing masks and maintaining distancing,” he said. “We are also considering regulating vegetable markets. Such places may be allowed to remain open from 10 am to 5 pm with restrictions,” he added.
State task force member Dr Shashank Joshi said authorities should immediately map hotspots and enforce double-masking, physical distancing and other measures to ensure the small areas that are affected become green zones as quickly as possible.
Dr Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research, said lockdowns are an extreme form of isolation and should be imposed only when there is no other solution. “It should be a last resort. The lockdown is a blunt weapon that’s painful and economically devastating. Stepping up surveillance and better testing are any day better options,” he said. As for the rise in cases, Dr Kant said a possible cause was failure of people to keep up precautions.
Wadettiwar came down heavily on political rallies, suggesting they be stopped till the situation returns to normal. “Ruling and opposition party leaders are taking out such rallies,” he said.