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Restrictions imposed in Maharashtra are driving spike in COVID-19 Cases

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India’s richest state, Maharashtra, has announced strict restrictions on COVID-19 starting Monday, April 5, 2021, after an increase in infection cases which now account for more than half of India’s daily new cases.

The state, which includes the financial capital, Mumbai, will close malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants and places of worship starting Monday evening. Authorities will also impose a complete lockdown at the weekend, Nawab Malik, a minister in the state government, told reporters on Sunday after a cabinet meeting.

Malik said the government would also impose a statewide curfew from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. starting Monday, allowing only essential services to operate during these hours.

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State Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray met with a group of top industrialists on Sunday before announcing new restrictions, according to a statement from his office.

Maharashtra, which accounts for less than a tenth of India’s population, recorded a record 49,447 new cases. The country, according to health ministry data, has accounted for 57 percent of the total cases and 47 percent of deaths in the country in the last 14 days.

Rajib Dasgupta, Chair of the Center for Social Medicine and Public Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said there are several reasons why cases in the country are increasing, including a new variant.

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“What really isn’t overemphasized, but which could be much more important than we think at the moment, is the emergence of variants of concern, or new forms of new mutated forms of viruses including the British strain.” Tensions in the UK are being identified over the past few weeks, and the increase in India in February coincided well with the rapid global spread of the UK between December and January, “Dasgupta said.

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India has the third largest coronavirus case burden in the world 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 summit on Sunday to review the COVID-19 situation and vaccination program. Meanwhile, Bollywood star Akshay Kumar said on Sunday that he has tested positive for the virus, becoming the latest Indian celebrity to catch COVID-19.

“I want to tell everyone that, this morning, I have tested positive for COVID-19,” Kumar wrote on Twitter.

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“I will sincerely ask everyone who has come into contact with me to be tested,” he added.

On Saturday, India spin star Axar Patel announced he had tested positive and was in isolation ahead of the start of the lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament. The news came a day after Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar said he had been hospitalized as a precautionary measure after testing positive a week earlier.

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