By PTI

MUMBAI: Schools in Maharashtra can start conducting more physical classes from August 17 provided the COVID-19 infection rate in the area is low, an order issued by the state government said on Tuesday.

The decision to reopen more classes had been announced last week.

Physical classes for std 5th to 7th will be allowed in rural areas from August 17, an official release said.

Physical classes for std 8th to 12th are already being held in most rural areas.

Classes for std 8th to 12th can resume in urban areas, the statement said.

Notably, the state task force on COVID-19 pandemic has advised against reopening schools offline.

Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the task force, had said on Monday that there was evidence that schools and religious places were becoming `super spreaders’ of the viral infection.

The final decision on whether to permit physical classes will be taken by a committee headed by the respective municipal commissioner in urban areas and district collector in rural areas.

Other members of the committee will be the ward officer, medical officer and the education officer.

The area where schools are to be reopened should have a very low COVID-19 prevalence for the last one month, and the district collector should arrange for vaccination of teachers and other school staff against COVID-19, the statement said.

“To avoid crowding, parents should be barred from entering the school premises. The number of students in a classroom can be around 15-20, seated six feet apart from each other,” it said.

Priority should be given to the teaching of core subjects, and if a student tests positive for the infection, the school should be closed and sanitized, the statement said.

The process to issue passes for travel by local trains in the Mumbai region for those who have taken both doses of COVID-19 vaccines will begin at railway stations from Wednesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said.

The passes will be issued after verification of the vaccination status, the BMC said in a release here on Tuesday.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday announced that any person who has completed 14 days after getting the second dose of coronavirus vaccines will be allowed to board suburban trains from August 15.

The BMC release said those who want to purchase a pass are required to carry a hard copy of COVID-19 vaccination final certificate and a photo ID for verification.

“Those eligible after verification will be allowed to travel from August 15, 2021 onwards,” the release said, adding a total of 358 help desks will be set up at 53 railway stations falling under the BMC’s jurisdiction.

Besides, help desks will be set up at 56 suburban stations falling in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (outside BMC limits) by the respective authorities, it said.

The civic body said the help desks will be operational in two consecutive sessions from 7 am to 11 pm.

“Citizens can approach the station nearest to their house for verification and should avoid crowding,” it said.

The BMC warned that strict legal action will be taken if fake vaccination certificates are produced to obtain passes.

As to making the facility available online, the process of creating an app for it was going on, the BMC said.

“The process of making this facility available online is underway. But it may take a little more time,” it said.

The BMC also said that it has appointed nodal officers for smooth implementation of the entire process and necessary training is being given to the staff.

“The offline process of issuing monthly season passes will continue on all seven days of the week till further orders and therefore people need not rush to the railway stations,” the civic body said.

If a person does not have even one of the two documents — vaccination certificate and photo ID — she or he will be denied entry at the railway station, it added.

The civic staff at a help desk will check the validity of the Final Vaccination Certificate (Second Dose) on the CoWin app.

“Once the verification is completed and both the documents are found to be valid, the certificate and the identification proof will be stamped in the prescribed format,” the BMC said.

The stamped Covid certificate will have to be presented at the ticket window to get a pass.

“Strict police action under the Epidemic Control Act / Disaster Management Act Indian Penal Code, will be taken if a citizen tries to produce lake/ bogus Cavid Vaccination Certificate,” it warned.

Government employees and other essential services staff will continue to be allowed to travel by local trains, irrespective of whether they have been vaccinated.

Central Railway and Western Railway officials said the number of ticketing windows will be increased.

WR spokesperson said it has opened 276 windows across the stations between Churchgate and Dahanu, whereas the CR said it will operate 341 ticket windows.

According to the BMC, so far it has administered 76,56,487 vaccine doses.

As many as 19,14,771 people have received both doses.

on Tuesday reported 5,609 coronavirus positive cases and 137 fatalities, including the highest 46 in the Pune region, while 7,568 patients recovered, a state health department official said.

With the new additions, the tally of infections and the death toll in Maharashtra rose to 63,63,442 and 1,34,201, respectively, the official said.

The number of recoveries has increased to 61,59,676, leaving the state with 66,123 active cases.

Compared to Monday, the number of cases went up by 1,104 in Maharashtra while the count of fatalities doubled compared to 68 deaths reported the day before.

Maharashtra’s case recovery rate now stands at 96.8 per cent and the fatality rate is 2.01 per cent.

Dhule, Nandurbar, Washim, Wardha, Bhandara and Gondia districts, and Malegaon and Parbhani municipal corporations did not report any new COVID-19 case, the official said.

At 782, Satara district reported the highest number of new infections in the state in the day.

Among the eight regions in Maharashtra, the Pune region reported the highest number of 2,330 cases, followed by 1,413 cases in the Kolhapur region.

Among the other regions, the Mumbai region reported 707 cases, Nashik region 683, Latur region 398, Aurangabad region 33, Akola region 31 and Nagpur region 14, the official said.

Of the 137 fatalities, the highest number of 46 deaths were reported from the Pune region, followed by 43 in the Kolhapur region.

Mumbai region reported 19 deaths due to COVID-19, Nashik region 11, Aurangabad region eight, Latur region five, Akola region four and Nagpur region one, according to the official.

Mumbai city saw 239 COVID-19 cases and five deaths.

Pune city reported 247 infections and five fatalities.

Among 66,123 active patients in Maharashtra, the Pune district has the highest number of 13,892 patients.

The Pune district has the highest number of 10,65,837 recovered cases.

Dhule district does not have a single active case, the official said.

With 1,79,402 new tests, the number of samples examined so far in Maharashtra climbed to 4,99,05,096, the official said.

A total of 4,13,437 people are in home quarantine in Maharashtra while 2,860 others are in institutional quarantine, he said.

Coronavirus figures in Maharashtra are as follows: Total cases 63,63,442, new cases 5,609, total deaths 1,34,201, fresh deaths 137, total recoveries 61,59,676, active cases 66,123, new tests conducted 1,79,402.