As Maharashtra battles a surge in Coronavirus cases, Municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said a chunk on cases could be attributed to public movement as local trains resumed services.

“One of my hunches is that the local trains in Mumbai, which carry almost 50 lakh people a day, were shut from last March till January 31, and only on February 1 we allowed all our rail population to board these trains … I have been saying that it would take us three weeks to understand if the trains have caused any rise in cases. Now we are exactly three weeks away from February 1 and some cases may have been attributed to the huge movement in trains in Covid times,” Chahal was quoted as saying in a television interview.

As the trains were said to be a major reason for the spurt in cases, both the Central and Western Railways maintain they have ensured passengers follow Covid-19 protocols while travelling in local trains.

“We have taken all precautions and the Western Railways is taking all necessary steps to check the spread of Covid-19,” said CPRO Western Railways, Sumit Thakur. “We are constantly sanitising our train rakes and we have a dedicated team for this. For the convenience of passengers, we have opened more than 300 booking counters. 1,300 services are running as of now, and we are fully abiding by the directives given by the state government,” he said.

The BMC data shows that resumption of the local train service is seen as one of the reasons behind the spike in numbers in Mumbai. Till February 1, the daily positive cases were under 400, but by the end of the first week, the number surpassed the 500 mark.

By February 13, the cases were 599 and by February 20, Mumbai reported 897 fresh cases which is the highest since December last year. The Municipal body has tightened curbs and is taking strict action against violators of the Covid norms. The state government is monitoring the situation and will take a decision in the next eight days if cases continue to rise.

However, according to Thakur, there is no proposal from the government to restrict local services. He said: “There is no proposal to restrict services. Whatever directives we get from the State government, we will follow and inform.”

For now, around 95 percent of local services have resumed operations of both the western and central line that are used by almost 22 lakh commuters.

(With inputs from Mihir Trivedi)

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