Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Friday said that a full lockdown could be imposed in the state if the coronavirus situation does not improve soon, reported NDTV.

“We are heading towards a lockdown but I hope that we don’t have to go for one,” Tope told NDTV in an interview. “Before that, if we contain the virus, we will be happy, satisfied and contented. We are hoping for the best.”

The health minister said that he was not in favour of imposing a full lockdown. “But when hospitals are overwhelmed, we have a dearth of doctors, there is a shortage of medicines and we are not able to cope with daily numbers, at that time, the thumb rule is that we should impose a lockdown immediately so we can ramp up our capacities and can prepare for the situation,” he told the news channel.

Tope said that the purpose of the lockdown was to break the chain of transmission of the coronavirus. “Worldwide it is seen that a lockdown of at least 15 days to three weeks is a must and should be followed very strictly,” he said. “Only in that period we can have a good impact.”

Maharashtra had imposed strict restrictions, including weekend lockdown and night curfew, on April 4. It is the worst affected state by the coronavirus in India. On Thursday, Maharashtra recorded 56,286 new Covid-19 cases, taking the overall infection tally in the state since last March to 32,29,547, reported the Hindustan Times. With 376 deaths, the toll since March 2020 climbed to 57,028.

Amid the surge in cases, Maharashtra and five other states have complained about the shortage of coronavirus vaccines. Earlier in the day, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said that several vaccination centres in the city had to turn people away as authorities ran out of supplies. Other districts such as Satara, Sangli and Pavel in the state also complained of having to close inoculation centres due to a lack of supplies. On Thursday, the state government had warned that it may be forced to halt vaccination for four to five days next week, if stocks are not replenished urgently.

On Thursday, Tope had also alleged that the state was receiving fewer vaccines population-wise as compared to states such as Gujarat, which is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. He said that the state needs 40 lakh vaccines a week and 1.6 crore shots in a month. “I don’t want to argue or fight...but we are getting 17 lakh doses after much fighting,” he said.

Tope had also dismissed Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan’s comments that Maharashtra was creating panic about vaccines to cover up its mismanagement of the pandemic. “It is a lie. We have adhered to all the suggestions and directions from the Centre,” he said. “We are testing huge numbers...we are not hiding active cases or deaths – we are very transparent. In other states, many where elections are taking place, there is no Covid-appropriate behaviour. Why is Covid-19 only seen in Maharashtra and nowhere else?”

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan rejected the state’s concerns about vaccine shortage on Wednesday, calling it “deplorable attempts” by state governments to distract attention from their failures to control the pandemic, and to spread panic among the people. On Thursday, he dismissed vaccine shortage concerns as “fear mongering” and said that more than 4.3 crore shots were in stock or nearing delivery.