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Restrictions imposed in and around Mumbai as COVID cases in Indian state increase

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MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s richest state Maharashtra announced tight restrictions on COVID-19 on Monday, after a rapid rise in infections now accounting for more than half of the country’s daily new cases.

An industrialist who attended a meeting with the chief minister before the curbs were announced quoted him as saying the situation is grim and there could be a shortage of hospital beds, doctors and bottles oxygen.

He declined to be named, but the comments echo those from government and health officials to Indian media on the situation in the state, which includes the crowded financial capital Mumbai.

The state will close shopping malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants and places of worship from Monday evening.

Authorities will also impose a full lockdown over the weekend, state government minister Nawab Malik told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

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

Millions of migrant workers travel from all over India to find jobs in the Western state which accounts for around 16% of India’s economic output.

Maharashtras chief minister Uddhav Thackeray met with industry before announcing the restrictions, according to a statement from his office.

Malik said industrial operations such as manufacturing and construction would be allowed to continue as usual.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting on Sunday to review the COVID-19 situation and the vaccination program.

The country reported 93,249 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to Sunday morning, according to data from the federal health ministry. Maharashtra, which represents less than a tenth of the population, has recorded a record 49,447 new cases.

The state, according to health ministry data, contributed 57% of total cases and 47% of deaths in the country in the past 14 days.

Ten matches in the Indian Premier League cricket tournament due to be played in Mumbai from April 10 to 25 will continue as planned despite the new brakes, an official at the local cricket body told Reuters.

The tournament, which is set to start without spectators from Friday at six venues across the country, has already been affected, with two cricketers testing positive despite coronavirus protocols in place for participants.

India is behind the United States and Brazil for the most infections in the world, with more than 12 million cases and nearly 165,000 deaths recorded since the start of the epidemic.

Rajendra Jadhav in Satara and Abhirup Roy in Mumbai; Additional reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Rupam Jain, Peter Graff and Alison Williams

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