Easing of Covid-19 Curbs to Depend on Oxygen Availability: CM Uddhav Thackeray

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday said the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the state will be based on the availability of oxygen and it was "up to the people to prevent or invite a 'third wave' of the pandemic". Inaugurating a virtual medical conference, Thackeray asked political parties to refrain from indulging in politics and demanding reopening of places where crowds cannot be avoided. Medical practitioners from various parts of the state as well as state COVID-19 task force members attended the virtual conference.

"Don't play with the lives of people. Hold agitations, but against COVID-19. It is up to us to prevent a third wave or invite it," the chief minister said. He claimed Maharashtra is the only state which has upgraded its health infrastructure to tackle the pandemic "like no other country has done". "We are only falling short of oxygen production, which takes a little longer. At present, our daily oxygen production is around 1,200 to 1,300 metric tonne which is used for industrial as well as medical purposes. For the industrial purpose, oxygen is required in steel, glass and pharma sectors. We need 150 metric tonne daily for non-COVID-19 patients and 200 metric tonne for COVID-19 patients," he said.

During the second wave of COVID-19, the state required 1,700 to 1,800 metric tonne oxygen daily, which it had to procure from other states, the CM said. Thackeray said he has given instructions to increase the oxygen production in the state to 3,000 metric tonne from the present 1,400 metric tonne. "But, that will take time. We may not get enough oxygen from other states if the number of cases there increase," he said. The chief minister said even though the second wave of COVID-19 is "under control", there is a slight increase in the number of daily cases in the last few days.

"We have to avoid crowding…have patience. We should not be required to close the places which have been opened up now," he said. Thackeray said people should know that the "enemy is yet not completely defeated…the thick tail is still there". The need of the hour is to have a stock of medicines and oxygen, he said, and asked hospitals and clinics to have an audit of their electric equipment. Maharashtra health secretary Pradeep Vyas in a presentation during the conference said since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 9, 2020, the highest daily spike in the state was 24,886 on September 19 last year. During the second wave, the highest single day spike was 68,631 on April 18, 2021, he said. The highest number of active cases during the first wave was 3,09,752 on September 17, 2020 , and during the second wave, the highest number of active cases was 6,99,858 on April 22, 2021. On Saturday, the number of active cases in the state was 52,025, and single-day spike was of 4,130 cases, the official said. In the last 15 days, there was no reduction in the number of new cases reported daily and active cases, he said during the conference.

Five Maharashtra districts which account for 72 per cent of the active cases are Pune, Thane, Satara, Ahmednagar, Mumbai, the official said. Besides, the districts of concern where the positivity rate is on an upward swing since August 29 are – Pune, Ahmednagar, Satara, Solapur, Sangli, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, he added. Vyas also said these districts will need a special caution, especially after the 'Ganesh Chaturthi' (the 10-day festival which will commence later this week). He said the second wave is on a downslide in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. So far, 6.27 crore people have been inoculated against COVID-19 in the state, and out of them 1.71 crore are fully vaccinated, he said.

The official also informed that 45 per cent of people aged 18 and above have so far been vaccinated in the state and in the state capital Mumbai, the figure is 80 per cent.

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