Coronavirus pandemic has claimed seven lives in India, with 360 confirmed cases so far, in view of which the central and the state governments have taken key decisions that takes the country to a complete lockdown, at least till March 31.
Joining the existing long list of states, Telangana and Delhi have also announced complete lockdown till March 31 on Sunday (March 22). Earlier in the day, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also announced a lockdown for two days starting March 23.
Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Uttarakhand have already announced partial or complete lockdown till March 31 after the Centre on Sunday urged state governments to lock down 75 affected districts across the country till the end of the month.
Reports suggest the decision was taken during a meeting of the principal secretary to the prime minister and the chief secretaries on Sunday.
All passenger train services, metro services and inter-state bus services have been shut down till the end of this month. With international flights banned and domestic flights operating only in small numbers, this effectively results in bringing transport across the country to a standstill.
“In the view of the need to contain the spread of COVID-19, it was agreed that there is an urgent need to extend the restrictions on the movement of non-essential passenger transport including inter-state transport buses till 31st March 2020,” read a government release.
Centre-states working in tandem
Significant decisions to this effect were taken on Sunday after consultations between Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, top officials of the Prime Minister’s office and chief secretaries of all states and Union territories. The current situation and the response to the ‘janata curfew’ was discussed at length, according to highly-placed government sources. If necessary, the lockdown in 75 districts could be extended to a number of others too depending on the assessment of the concerned state governments.
No inter-state bus connectivity
While buses can operate within a state, there will be no inter-state bus connectivity during lockdown, said sources. Several states have already sealed their borders and the restriction is now being extended all over India.
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Essentials to be available
Besides medical services, police and other essential services, the Union government and state governments are taking steps to ensure supply of essential items like milk, vegetables, and other food items during the lockdown. Therefore, goods trains will continue operation even though passenger services have been suspended. Similarly, states have been advised to allow trucks carrying vegetables, fruits and other essential commodities cross their borders.
Report to PM Modi
The decisions taken on Sunday and the current situation have been reviewed by the Prime Minister and periodic reports are being submitted to him. With some states already extending the ‘janata curfew’ till Monday morning, discussions are being held on extending the lockdown till at least March 31 to contain coronavirus spreading further. In all probability even if the COVID-19 spread slows down, restrictions will continue for at least three more weeks, said sources.
States shut borders
Earlier, the states of Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Uttarakhand have announced a partial or complete lockdowns till March 31. In a statement Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also announced that he may announce a total lockdown, if that’s what is “needed to save lives”.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Sunday ordered a complete lockdown of the state, barring essential and medical services from March 22 to March 31. The state government, in a statement, said that all government offices, malls, factories and public transport among others will be closed.
In a partial lockdown, the Madhya Pradesh government has ordered a shutdown for Jabalpur, Rewa, Seoni and Narsinghpur. The decision was taken at an emergency meeting held on Saturday night after four positive cases of coronavirus were reported from Jabalpur.
While Narsinghpur has been put under a 14-day lockdown from Saturday midnight, Jabalpur and Rewa have been put under a lockdown for three days. To make the lockdown effective, individuals have been asked not to venture out of their houses. While the borders of the said districts will be sealed, entry by road or rail will be prohibited.
The government has also ordered closure of all semi-government offices, banking and financial institutions during the lockdown. However, departments like health, police, telecom, municipality, revenue, electricity and panchayat offices will be open.
Punjab which so far has reported one death and 14 positive cases due to coronavirus, has decided to enforce a lockdown till March 31.