A message stating Maharashtra has imposed several new restrictions over concerns due to the Omicron variant is being shared widely on social media. While there are new COVID-19 guidelines in the state the viral post is misleading.
India has so far reported 83 cases of Omicron variant, which spreads faster than the previous strains of Coronavirus, with the highest in Maharashtra at 32, followed by Rajasthan at 17.
It is in this backdrop that a viral forward which reads, ‘CM Uddhav Thackeray ji’s order has come out,’ on Omicron is being shared on WhatsApp and Facebook.
The message further goes on to say that ‘…the timing of Vyapari shopkeeper is from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, the shopkeeper trader and the customer are required to wear masks, the police have been exempted, if caught without a mask, the challan also explodes on you. Night curfew will continue from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am. Section144 is applicable from 15th December 2021 till 31st January 2022.’
The post has been shared several times on Facebook.
Newschecker also received a request from a user on its WhatsApp helpline number (+91 9999499044), to check the veracity of this message.
To check if the Maharashtra government has given orders as mentioned in the viral message, Newschecker searched for local news reports and found an article by Hindustan Times with the title, ‘Shopkeepers express shock over state’s new penalty order.’
According to the report dated November 29, shopkeepers in Maharashtra will be fined 10,000 rupees if customers ‘don’t wear masks or violate Covid rules.’ The guideline bought in the wake of the Omicron variant has faced flak from traders associations.
Newschecker contacted Mahendra Pitaliya, Secretary, Federation of Trade Associations, Pune, who said, “It is true that shopkeepers will be fined 10,000 rupees if customers do not wear masks and we are requesting the government to reconsider this order.”
When asked about the curfew timings for shops he said, “the government has not ordered the shop to close at 8 pm. At present, shops are allowed to remain open till 11 pm in Pune.”
We then looked up news reports on section 144, which preempts gathering of five or more people in public, and found a news report by Hindustan Times titled, ‘Maharashtra Omicron cases: Section 144 imposed in Mumbai till New Year’s Eve.’
The report states that the Mumbai police has imposed section 144 in the city from December 16 to December 31 ‘banning large gatherings as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus disease.’
But Newschecker did not find any reports stating imposition of section 144 till January 31, 2022.
On contacting the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s office about Section 144 in the state till January 2022, we were told by officials that, “no such order has been issued but district collectors can take such a decision based on local conditions.”
Newschecker further contacted Pune City Assistant Commissioner of Police, Ravindra Shiswe who confirmed, “no such decision has been taken by the Pune police nor has the government given any such order on section 144 due to the Omicron variant.”
Though the Maharashtra government has brought new COVID-19 guidelines in the wake of the Omicron strain, the claim that shops can run only between 9:00 am to 8:00 pm and section 144 throughout the state till January 31, 2022, are false.
Result: Misleading Content
Report by Hindustan Times (Links here and here)
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