It was in September 2020 that the worst peak of the first wave began just days after Ganpati Bappa bid adieu to the city in the last week of August. The fortnight before the Ganpati festival, in the third week of August in 2020, the state had registered 1.7 lakh Covid cases, while the fortnight after the festival added 2.5 lakh cases — a jump of nearly 50%.
A year later, the decline in the Covid second wave has led to easing of most Covid-19-related norms, which has led to a slight rise in daily cases in the city for the last four consecutive days: after almost two weeks of registering less than 300 cases daily, the BMC registered 391 cases on Saturday, and 362, 398 and 342 cases on the previous days. However, the total cases added in the state and the city since the opening up has not been significant. The state added over 81,000 cases in the first 14 days of August, which has dipped to 64,401 from August 15 to 28, while the number of cases in the city has been almost the same at around 4,000.
The fear of the third wave has led the Central health ministry to issue a directive to states to keep a tight check during the festive season, which begins with Janmasthami on Monday and continues with the Jain festival Paryushan (September 3 to 10) and Ganpati (September 10 to 19) till Diwali on November 4.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday yet again appealed to people to ensure that the health of the people is prioritised over festivities. “The state has already issued advisories regarding the protocols to be followed during the festive season. The threat of Covid-19 is still there and so all political, social and religious groups must follow government-issued norms,” said Thackeray in response to the Centre’s advisory. The state government has downsized the festivals even this year, cancelled dahi handi events, and is yet to open up religious places officially.
A doctor pointed out that the easing of restrictions has been to a “higher degree” this time around as compared to September 2020: more people have approval for train travel and there is no restriction on intra-city or district travel. However, a senior state government official said that the key difference between this year and last year is that the vaccine coverage in Mumbai has been significant and it is likely that it will help keep the cases low.
But BMC executive health officer Dr Mangala Gomare isn’t perturbed. She said the four-day rise is very slight and could be linked to the unlocking. Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the state task force, said that the trend should be watched for a few days before an alarm is raised. “A slight increase due to unlocking is expected. The testing positivity rate is around 1%, and that is good,” he said.