Restrictions imposed in Indian state that accounts for more than half of new Covid-19 cases

Coronavirus cases continue to rise rapidly in India with the number of new infections nearing all-time high on April 4, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

MUMBAI (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - India's richest state, Maharashtra, announced stringent Covid-19 restrictions from Monday (April 5), after a rapid rise in infections now accounting for more than half the daily new cases in India.

An industrialist who attended a meeting with the chief minister before the curbs were announced quoted him as saying that "the situation is grim and there could be shortage of hospital beds, doctors and oxygen cylinders".

He declined to be named, but the comments echo those of government and health officials to Indian media about the situation in the state, which includes the crowded financial capital Mumbai.

The state, which includes the financial capital Mumbai, will shut down malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants and places of worship from Monday evening.

Mumbai authorities asked all private offices to work from home through April as India's financial hub emerges once again as the epicenter of a new wave of coronavirus infections.

Banks, medical and insurance offices will be allowed some staffing concessions, Mr Rajesh Tope, Maharashtra health minister said in video messages.

Authorities will also impose a complete lockdown on weekends, Mr Nawab Malik, a minister in the state government, told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

Mr Malik said the government will also impose a night curfew across the state from 8pm to 7am from Monday, allowing only essential services to operate during those hours.

Millions of migrant workers travel from across India to secure jobs in the western state that accounts for about 16 per cent of India's economic output.

The state's Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray met with a group of top industrialists on Sunday before announcing the new restrictions, according to a statement from his office.

Coronavirus cases continue to rise rapidly in India with the number of new infections nearing an all-time high on Sunday, largely driven by infections in Maharashtra.

Mr Malik said industrial operations such as manufacturing and construction activity would be allowed to continue as usual.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting on Sunday to review the Covid-19 situation and vaccination programme.

The country reported 93,249 new cases in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, according to data from the federal Health Ministry. Maharashtra, which accounts for less than a tenth of India's population, accounted for a record 49,447 new cases.

The state, according to health ministry data, has contributed 57 per cent of total cases and 47 per cent of deaths in the country in the last 14 days.

Ten matches in the Indian Premier League cricket tournament scheduled to be played in Mumbai between April 10-25 will continue as planned despite the new curbs, an official at the local cricket body said.

The tournament, set to start without spectators from Friday in six venues across the country, has already been hit, with two cricketers testing positive despite coronavirus protocols set up for participants.

India is behind the United States and Brazil in the highest number of infections in the world, with more than 12 million cases and nearly 165,000 deaths recorded since the start of the outbreak.

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