Maharashtra sounds alert over corona’s Delta Plus variant. What next

Maharashtra's Stricter Unlocking Norms After 1st Delta+ Death; More Curbs in Pune, Thane

With Covid-19’s newest mutant Delta Plus claiming its first victim – an 80-year-old woman from Ratnagiri – the Maharashtra government has decided to make unlocking rules stricter. The state currently has 20 more active Delta Plus variant cases.

Amid reports of Delta and Delta Plus variants of coronavirus and a potentially imminent third wave, the Maharashtra government has said that while easing of restrictions can’t be risked, total RT-PCR tests and, not Rapid antigen tests, will be a decisive factor. The government further said the focus will be on the vaccination of the highest number of people possible.

According to the latest order, all administrative units, including Pune and Thane, will be placed under a minimum of level 3 restrictions, which implies that the previous permissions to open malls and other public places will be withheld. Further, shops and other public spaces will now have to close down till 4 pm.

The delta plus variant has now become a variant of concern (VOC) because of its characteristics: increased transmissibility; stronger binding to receptors of lung cell; and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response. With the changing threat, the Maharashtra government has made following modifications and additions to its earlier order dated June 4, 2021:

  1.  State Level Triggers: All the administrative units, irrespective of the weekly positivity rate and oxygen bed occupancy percentage will remain at a level not below 3 till the order is withdrawn by SDMA.
  2.  Weekly Positivity Rate: Weekly positivity rate to be considered for decision regarding levels of restrictions to be applied must be determined only on the basis of RT-PCR tests and not RAT or other tests.
  3. Declaration Process for Levels of Restrictions to be followed by DDMA: DDMA shall take data from Public Health Department and shall decide the level of restrictions that maybe followed in various administrative units under their jurisdiction. DDMA shall not require prior permission of SDMA for going for higher level of restrictions or putting extra restrictions.
  4. Two Weeks’ Trend: While coming down onto a lower level, DDMA shall look into two weeks’ trend before accepting lower level of restrictions. When there is an upward trend in number of positive cases being identified daily and requiring a higher level of restrictions than the current one, DDMA however shall do so without waiting for two weeks’ trends.
  5. Special Actions: DDMA shall take following special actions in addition to ensure ease of restrictions do not lead to spread of Covid-19:
  • Push vaccination through public awareness activities; attempt must be to achieve vaccination of 70 per cent of eligible population at the earliest; encourage work place vaccinations especially of blue collar workers;
  • Push Test-Track-Treat methodology to contain the spread,
  • Enforce on establishments to ensure safe work spaces with proper air ventilation norms
  • Carry out large number of tests and percentage of RT-PCR tests vis-a-vis other tests must be as expected by Public Health Department,
  • Impose fines effectively on violators of Covid Appropriate Behaviour,
  • Avoid events/ functions/ activities that lead to crowding, congregations and gatherings,
  • Declare containment zones judiciously so that restrictions are imposed on a smaller area, especially defaulting area,
  • Make flying squads for enforcement of CAB, especially to check high incidence events like marriages and establishments like restaurants, malls etc. It must be appreciated that CAB compliance is a must for lowering restrictions that are nothing but social level desperate measures in case of failure of this compliance by individual citizens.

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