Mumbai on Saturday reported 757 new COVID-19 cases and Maharashtra’s tally of omicron cases, at 108, is the highest in the country. However, according to Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope, the government will not consider a statewide lockdown unless the demand for medical oxygen exceeds 800 metric tonnes per day.

The Maharashtra government has already imposed some restrictions, such as limiting gatherings of more than five people from 9pm to 6am, and putting a cap on the number of people attending public events. New Year’s Eve parties have also been prohibited in Mumbai. The government feels that further restrictions would adversely affect the lives of people and has instead asked people to strictly follow COVID-appropriate behaviour.

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“There will be [a] statewide lockdown only if the demand for medical oxygen rises to 800 metric tons (per day). We do not want people to face more restrictions, therefore I am making an appeal to people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour. Wearing a mask is very important,” said Tope, speaking to the media.

The health minister added that the decision to not impose a statewide lockdown has been taken because, despite the spike in omicron cases, very few patients have required supplementary oxygen or admission to the ICU. Available information on the omicron variant supports the government’s logic, as scientists have also stated that the omicron variant is unlikely to cause breathing difficulties as it primarily multiplies in the throat.

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That being said, the rapid transmission of the omicron variant remains a concern, and could well impose fresh pressures on a worn-out healthcare system if its spread cannot be controlled. Indeed, a third wave of the pandemic is projected to hit the country in 2022, although scientists expect the severity of the wave to be less intense than the ones before it.

With omicron cases hitting 415 nationwide, the Centre has also urged states and Union Territories (UTs) to take extra precautions during the festive week to ensure that celebrations do not turn into super-spreader events.