As the festive season starts in Maharashtra with Janmasthami on Monday, fear looms over the third wave of Covid-19 in the state. The festive season begins with Janmasthami on Monday and continues with the Jain festival Paryushan (September 3 to 10), Ganpati (September 10 to 19) and goes until Diwali on November 4.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray yesterday said the Centre’s directives to states to ensure there is no crowding during the upcoming festivals underlines the need to prioritise lives of people amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a public appeal, Thackeray sought cooperation from political and social groups as well as all spheres of society as Covid-19 continued to hang over everyone’s heads like the “sword of Damocles”.
A report in The Times of India said authorities and experts are worried ahead of festive season as it was in September last year that the worst peak of the first wave began after Ganpati festival in the city in the last week of August. In the third week of August in 2020, fortnight before Ganpati festival, Maharashtra had registered 1.7 lakh Covid cases, while a fortnight after the the festival it added 2.5 lakh cases, a surge of 50 percent.
This year, Mumbai has registered a downfall in the Covid-19 graph after the second wave. The daily cases have risen slightly in the last four days after two weeks of registering less than 300 daily cases.
While Maharashtra recorded 81,000 infections in the first 14 days of this month, it recorded just 64,401 cases since August 15, indicating a fall of cases.
The Home Ministry extended the Covid-19 guidelines till September 30 and asked the states and UTs to ensure compliance of the containment measures and augment enforcement during the period.
The order was issued in the light of festive season which may see large gatherings of people, where Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla advised states and UTs to augment their enforcement efforts to effectively check transmission of the Covid-19. It has also asked states to take suitable measures to avoid large gatherings during the festive season.
The state government has downsized the festivals this year cancelling dahi handi events and it is yet to open for religious places officially.
Some experts suggest that more people have train travel and no restrictions on intra-city travel this year compared to last year. However, a senior government official said that the key difference is the vaccination as the vaccine coverage has been significant in Mumbai.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a letter to the Maharashtra chief secretary said even though the trajectory of daily new cases has shown a decline over the last month, there are some districts in Maharashtra which are showing early signs of an upsurge in COVID-19 cases and test positivity Bhushan said the directions were issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 by the Home Ministry for focussed containment measures.
“In light of this order, and in view of mass events and public gatherings expected during celebration of upcoming festivals (including Dahi Handi and Ganpati Utsav) in Maharashtra, it is advised that the state may consider imposing and enforcing local restrictions in public observation of these festivals and mass gatherings,” Bhushan said.