Mumbai: India's richest state, Maharashtra, will be under lockdown from Wednesday night for 15 days to slow rising coronavirus infections, its chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Tuesday.
Maharashtra, home to India's financial capital Mumbai and the country's most industrial state, has been the country's worst hit state, accounting for about a quarter of its 13.5 million cases.
However, Mumbai suburban trains and city buses will continue to run, but commutes will be permitted for those in the designated 'essential services', the chief minister said.
"From tomorrow 8 pm, Section 144 will be imposed across Maharashtra.. From 7am-8pm only essential services shall remain open. This is imperative to break the chain of the virus. Saving lives is our topmost priority," Thackeray said in an address to the state late in the evening.
Maharashtra, which houses financial hub Mumbai, will allow only ultra-essential manufacturers such as medical equipment providers and grocery stores to stay open from 8 pm, April 14, until 7am, May 1. Banks, stock exchanges, telecom firms and the regulators will run, but every office that can shut or work from home should do so, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said.
"Everything has a maximum capacity it can bear," Thackeray said. "If we pile on more pressure, the system will break down."
To help tide over the fresh lockdown, Thackeray announced free rice and wheat for poor families through the month, and community kitchens - which serve subsidised meals - will now make them free. Cash will be deposited into the bank accounts of vulnerable individuals who lose their livelihoods. In all, the state will spend 54 billion rupees ($716 million) to support its vulnerable, Thackeray said.
"Right now we are focused on saving lives," he said. "That's my most important goal."
- with inputs from Bloomberg