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India's Maharashtra state imposes new COVID-19 lockdowns in some areas

Rajendra Jadhav
·1 min read

By Rajendra Jadhav

MUMBAI, Feb 21 (Reuters) - India's western Maharashtrastate, home to the country's financial hub Mumbai, said onSunday it would impose new coronavirus-related restrictions infour districts, amid concerns about a second wave and slowvaccine rollout.

India, with a population of about 1.4 billion, has reported10.9 million confirmed coronavirus infections, the world'ssecond highest after the United States, and 156,212 deaths. Ithas vaccinated about 11 million people since mid-January.

As the number of cases has risen in recent days, India'sHealth Ministry has asked several states to expand testing andsurveillance, including Maharashtra, which has about 112 millionpeople and accounts for about 16% of India's economic output.

Maharashtra's Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said dailycases in the state had risen to almost 7,000 from about 2,000earlier this month, demanding stricter measures from Monday tocontrol the spread of the virus in four districts of the state.

"The second wave has been knocking on our door. Whether ithas come or not will be confirmed in next eight to 15 days," hesaid in a televised address, adding that restrictions could bewidened beyond those four districts if necessary.

India's Health Ministry has also asked Maharashtra and someother states to keep a close eye on variants of the coronavirusand to monitor emerging clusters of cases.

Some epidemiologists have suggested the current spike incases could be caused by new strains.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has facedcriticism for the slow pace of the vaccination rollout. Theauthorities are expected to expand the vaccination programme toreach a government target of 300 million by July.

(Writing and additional reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editingby Edmund Blair)