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India’s worst-hit state imposes strict virus restrictions

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India’s worst-hit and richest state Maharashtra is imposing stricter restrictions for 15 days in an effort to stem the surge of coronavirus infections that is threatening to overcome hospitals

Top state officials stressed that the closure of most industries, businesses, public places and limits on the movement of people didn’t constitute a lockdown.

The distinction did little to allay Ramachal Yadav’s anxieties. On Wednesday morning, he joined others at a Mumbai railway station getting on a train back home. “There is no work,” said the 45-year-old.

India has detected over 180,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, about a third in Maharashtra state. India has so far confirmed over 13.9 million cases and 172,000 dead in what is l ikely an undercount.

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that most public places, shops and establishments will be shut starting 8 p.m. Wednesday, expect essential services like grocery shops and banks.

Although the state has announced a relief package of $728 million that will include assistance for the poor, industry experts say that the new restrictions might prove fatal for businesses that were only just recovering from last year’s economic recession.

“Livelihoods are important, but life is more important,” Thackeray said, echoing a difficult choice faced by other states in India.

The scenes playing out in Maharashtra in the past week mirror those developing in other parts of the country: patients gasping for air turned away from hospitals that are running out of oxygen and weeping families waiting their turn to bid farewell to their loved ones at crematoria.

India said Tuesday that it would authorize vaccines that had been given an emergency nod by the World Health Organization or regulators in the United States, Europe, Britain or Japan. Indian regulators also approved Russia’s Sputnik V for emergency use. But experts said that the decision was unlikely to have any immediate impact on supplies available in the country.

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“All one can think of is that, I hope I don’t fall ill over the next month or so,” said Dr. Vineeta Bal, who studies immune systems at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune city in Maharashtra state.

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Ghosal reported from New Delhi.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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