India’s richest state, Maharashtra, has announced stringent COVID-19 restrictions from Monday, after a rapid rise in infections now accounting for more than half the daily new cases in India.
The state, which includes the financial capital, Mumbai, will shut down malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants and places of worship from Monday evening.
Authorities will also impose a complete lockdown on weekends, Nawab Malik, a minister in the state government, told reporters on Sunday after a cabinet meeting.
Malik said the government will also impose a night curfew across the state from 8pm to 7am from Monday, allowing only essential services to operate during those hours.
The state’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray met with a group of top industrialists on Sunday before announcing the new restrictions, according to a statement from his office.
Coronavirus cases continue to rise rapidly in India with the number of new infections nearing an all-time high on Sunday, largely driven by infections in Maharashtra.
The country reported 93,249 new cases in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, according to data from the federal health ministry.
Maharashtra, which accounts for less than a tenth of India’s population, accounted for a record 49,447 new cases.
The state, according to health ministry data, has contributed 57 percent of total cases and 47 percent of deaths in the country in the last 14 days.
Rajib Dasgupta, Chairperson at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Al Jazeera from New Delhi there were several reasons why cases in the country were increasing, including the presence of new variants.
“What’s not really been given much emphasis, but could be a lot more important than we think at present, is the emergence of the variants of concern, or the new forms of the new mutated forms of the virus including the UK strain,” Dasgupta said.
“The UK strain is being identified for the last couple of weeks, and the rise in India in February coincides well with the rapid global spread of UK the strain between December and January.”
India has the world’s third-largest caseload of coronavirus cases after the United States and Brazil, recording more than 12.3 million cases and at least 164,000 deaths.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting on Sunday to review the COVID-19 situation and vaccination programme.
Meanwhile, Bollywood star Akshay Kumar said on Sunday he has tested positive for the virus, becoming the latest Indian celebrity to contract COVID-19
“I wish to inform everyone that, earlier this morning, I have tested positive for COVID-19,” Kumar posted on Twitter.
“I would sincerely request all those that have come in contact with me to get tested,” he added.
— Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar) April 4, 2021
Saturday also saw Indian spin star Axar Patel announce he had tested positive and was in isolation ahead of the start of the lucrative Twenty20 Indian Premier League tournament.
The news came just a day after Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar said he had been hospitalised as a precautionary measure after testing positive a week earlier.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES