Maharashtra has imposed a night curfew – 11 PM to 6 AM till January 5 – for Mumbai and all municipal corporation areas in the state, in view of the mutated strain of coronavirus that has emerged in the United Kingdom and caused several nations, including India, to temporarily ban flights to and from that country.
Passengers from European countries other than the UK, or any in the Middle East, will be sent to 14-day institutional quarantine, and others must adhere to a similar period of home quarantine, the state government said late Monday evening, after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held a meeting to discuss the mutant virus strain.
Earlier today the centre announced a ban on all flights from the UK till December 31.
The ban will start Wednesday and all inbound passengers from the UK before then will be administered RT-PCR tests on arrival. Those who test positive will be sent to institutional quarantine and the rest will be asked to home-isolate for seven days.
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has assured people the government has the situation under control and “there is no need to panic”. Dr Vardhan said Monday: “… don’t get hassled with imaginary situations… The government is fully alert.”
The decision to impose a night curfew marks a U-turn by Chief Minister Thackeray.
On Sunday he said he was against a night curfew although experts had recommended it; this was, however, before the meeting on the mutant Covid strain. The Chief Minister did say face masks would be mandatory for the next six months.
The mutated version of the coronavirus was first detected in southeast England in September. It is quickly becoming the dominant strain in London and other parts of the UK, and has led to surging infection numbers and toughest levels of restrictions on some 18 million people.
The new strain, which could be up to 70 per cent more easily transmitted, has worried health experts at a time when several nations, including the UK and the United States, have cleared vaccines. European Union experts believe existing vaccines against coronavirus are effective against the new strain.
Maharashtra’s curfew and flight restrictions hark back to measures from a few months ago, when the virus was rampaging through the state.
Although the virus’ spread has declined significantly since – the state’s seven-day rolling average of new daily cases is down to 2,301 from over 22,000 in mid-September – it remains the worst-affected though, with nearly 19 lakh cases since the crisis broke in December last year. The active caseload is around 63,000 and the state has reported around 48,700 deaths linked to the virus.