Get crew members tested for Covid, IFTPC urges TV producers

Maharashtra is considering a state-wide lockdown to combat the second wave of infections.

MUMBAI: With no slowdown in sight in the number of Covid2019 cases in Maharashtra, the Indian Films and Television Producers Council (IFTPC) has urged all television producers to conduct RT-PCR/antigen tests of crew members working on ongoing projects. The statement comes at a time when the state government is mulling a complete lockdown for two weeks to combat the second wave of infections.

Maharashtra is battling an unprecedented surge of Covid2019 cases, with nearly 60,000 cases being reported daily for the past few days. As many as 394 people lost their lives in the past 24 hours taking the death toll to 57,987.The state worst hit by the ongoing pandemic was forced to enforce a night curfew and a weekend lockdown last week. Except for essential services, it announced the closure of all other businesses, including theatres, cinema halls, and multiplexes till 30 April. However, the film and television shoots were permitted to continue amid restrictions.

In a statement, the IFTPC said that it has asked the producers of 90 TV shows to conduct Covid2019 tests of their entire crew and submit a report. It has already received confirmation of as many as 9,000 tests, it stated further. The tests will be repeated after 15 days as per the ‘Break the Chain’ guidelines. The association has, however, mandated that antigen tests be done every week for additional safety.

IFTPC chairman TV & web wing JD Majethia mentioned that broadcasters have borne the cost of the tests. "All the necessary guidelines are being followed scrupulously. We have also urged the producers to create a bio-bubble of the sets and post-production facilities for total safety,” he said, adding that the work on bio-bubble has already commenced and will fructify in a couple of days.

Several on-ground productions including Ram Setu, Gangubai Kathiawadi, and Dharma Productions-backed Mr. Lele were impacted after actors, as well as other members on the sets, tested positive for the novel Coronavirus. Filming of Wagle Ki Duniya and Anupamaa was also halted after some members on the sets tested positive. Mumbai itself has recorded nearly 10,000 positive cases in the past 24 hours and recorded 79 deaths. Other cities like Aurangabad, Pune, Nashik, Thane also remain badly affected.

Majethia said the television industry has been continuously producing entertaining shows which help the people to stay at home and bring relief to their stressful life. “We hope the government will treat the industry as an essential service and its workers as frontline workers,” he stated.

On Sunday, chief minister Udhhav Thackeray held a meeting with the Covid2019 task force to discuss the current situation and the duration of a state-wide lockdown and its potential economic fallout. Thackeray had earlier warned that a lockdown is imminent if there is no let-up in cases. Talking to reporters post the meeting, state health minister Rajesh Tope said most of those present at the discussion were of the view that a lockdown should be imposed in the state for at least two weeks. However, he added that a final decision regarding imposing a lockdown in Maharashtra will be taken after 14 April.

The state has administered Covid2019 vaccines to over a crore people so far.

The second wave of Covid2019 and another lockdown could land a serious blow to the entertainment industry, which is still recuperating from the damages incurred last year due to an extended shutdown. Apart from the loss of revenue and the impact on the workforce, the restrictions have also put a question mark over the revival of the film exhibition business.

What the second Covid2019 wave means for Maharashtra

The IFTPC had earlier cautioned the producers about a potential "September-2020" like situation developing again and urged them to avoid outdoor shoots with immediate effect. Meanwhile, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) formed a monitoring team to ensure that all Covid2019 shooting guidelines, including safety precautions on the set, avoiding filming of crowd sequences are strictly followed.

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