The Gujarat government has imposed a 57-hour curfew in Ahmedabad in the face of surging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases that are being described as the third wave of infections, even as chief minister Vijay Rupani said the curfew was not a precursor to an indefinite lockdown.

The decision was taken late on Thursday after the state recorded 1,340 cases, the highest surge in infections in 47 days. In the 24 hours to Friday, Gujarat recorded 1,420 Covid-19 cases, taking the state tally to 194,402. It also recorded seven new fatalities due to the virus, with the death toll now at 3,837, according to the health bulletin released by the state government on Friday.

Ahmedabad accounted for the highest jump in Covid-19 cases, with 246 new infections, followed by Surat (239), Vadodara (149), Rajkot (137) and Gandhinagar (80). Till Thursday morning, there were 2,845 active cases in Ahmedabad.

In addition to the curfew, the state government has also put off its decision to reopen schools and colleges from November 23. The Gujarat Public Services Commission (GPSC) has also postponed exams to recruit medical teachers, which were to begin on November 22, official statements said.

The government on Friday also announced a night curfew between 9pm and 6am in Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara from Saturday. A night curfew has been already announced in Ahmedabad from 9 pm next Monday. In addition, a 57-hour weekend curfew would begin from 9 pm in the city on Friday night and end at 6 am on November 23.

Rupani said the sudden spike in the cases were because of Diwali and related activities as well as the onset of winter. Diwali festivities are a week-long affair in Gujarat, and stretch till Labh Pancham (this year, it ended on Thursday). It saw thousands of people thronging markets, malls and streets. In fact, all appeals by authorities to avoid bursting firecrackers fell on deaf ears.

“The blame [for surge in cases] surely lies with the carelessness of the people at large; there was no sense of responsibility at all. But this is also because a tough and clear message has not gone from the Gujarat government,” said Dr Mona Desai, president of the Ahmedabad branch of the Indian Medical Association.

Additional chief secretary Rajiv Gupta, who is also the officer on special duty for Ahmedabad Covid-19 management, told reporters that around 1,500 new beds had been added in hospitals in view of the rising cases. Health department officials said the cancer and kidney wings on the state-run Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad have been reopened to treat coronavirus cases.

Dr Bharat Gadhvi, president of the Ahmedabad Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, said 93% of 2,300 beds in private hospitals are occupied.

Civil Hospital’s medical superintendent Dr JV Modi said several of the new patients have come with severe viral load requiring oxygen support. However, unlike May, the hospital is better prepared with more ventilator beds and better facilities.

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