Masks not mandatory yet, says Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Masks not mandatory yet, says Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope

Jun 04, 2022 06:40 PM IST

The Union government on Friday directed five states, including Maharashtra, which were reporting a rise in Covid-19 cases to take prompt steps in tracking new clusters and adhere to the Centre’s five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccinate and ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour.

Mumbai: Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope on Saturday clarified that the state has not made masks mandatory in public places, even as the state has seen a spike in cases in the past week and recorded over 1,000 cases three days in a row.

Maharashtra has seen a spike in cases in the past week and recorded over 1,000 cases three days in a row. (HT PHOTO.)
Maharashtra has seen a spike in cases in the past week and recorded over 1,000 cases three days in a row. (HT PHOTO.)

“The Covid-19 task force met this week and it was decided to appeal to the citizens to use masks both in crowded places as well as closed places like buses, trains, schools and offices. This is an appeal and we have not made masks compulsory till now,” Tope said in Pune.

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On Friday, additional chief secretary (public health) Pradeep Vyas wrote a letter to district collectors stating that districts should increase testing immediately, and ensure that the proportion of RT-PCR tests was at least 60%. “Mask in closed public spaces like trains, buses, cinemas, auditoriums, offices, hospitals, colleges, schools is a must,” he wrote.

Tope clarified that that the word “must” had created confusion and added that the government was making an appeal to the people, and had not made masks compulsory as of now.

He further said that there was no reason to panic as the surge was confined to specific districts including Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Thane, Palghar and Raigad.

“There has been some increase in positive cases in limited cluster areas like Mumbai, Pune, Thane, and Palghar districts, leading to the hike in India’s active cases. Thus, we appeal to the public to wear masks in areas of surge. Masks should be worn in closed spaces like buses, schools, railways, and offices. This is not mandatory, therefore no fine is imposed. . As per now, it is an appeal to the people to wear masks,” said Tope.

“Despite the surge in cases, there are hardly any hospitalization cases. Patients are getting well within eight days due to their immunity. We will study this situation for the next 15-20 days and then take a decision on whether to make masks mandatory or not,” Tope said.

The Union government on Friday directed five states, including Maharashtra, which were reporting a rise in Covid-19 cases to take prompt steps in tracking new clusters and adhere to the Centre’s five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccinate and ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour.

In a letter addressed Vyas, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan pointed out that a rise was noticeable in the state’s weekly positivity rate from 1.5% to 3.1% in the past week and that its “higher contribution to lndia’s cases [indicated] a possibility of a localized spread of infection”.

Vyas, in turn, wrote to district collectors asking that Covid-19 testing be increased. The shortfall in the number of weekly tests conducted was a “major point of concern,” he wrote. It was in this letter that Vyas said masks were a “must” in public places.

“After seeing a sustained decline in the number of Covid-19 cases in the state over the last couple of months, cases have started slowly but steadily increasing and the daily cases have crossed 1,000 for the first time after 3 months on 1 June, 2022. Currently, Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Thane are seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases but with positivity rate increasing in other districts. We can expect an increase in cases in other districts as well. In the last week, as many as nine districts have shown growth in the number of new cases as compared to the week preceding that. In view of this, steps will need to be taken to keep the surge under control and to keep hospital admissions to minimum,” Vyas’ letter read.

On Friday, the state saw a single-day spike of 1,134 Covid-19 cases, up from 1,045 on Thursday; Mumbai, which reported 763 fresh cases, accounts for a bulk of active cases in the state. The state’s daily test positivity rate was 9.74% on Friday, and 26,285 tests were conducted in the preceding 24-hour period.

Even as there has been spike, use of mask among citizens in most parts of the state including Pune has fallen drastically with barely anyone seen wearing them in malls, cinema theatre and other commercial places.

Considering the low compliance of mask guidelines in the state, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar last week had said that masks may be made mandatory if the spike in cases continued.

The mask mandate was removed starting April 1. Before this, any person found not wearing a mask in public places was fined 200.

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