Home / News / India /  Centre orders restrictions on public transport till 31 March

The government on Sunday decided to restrict transport services—railways, metro and interstate buses—across the country on a scale that has never been tried before in India, as the country heads towards a lockdown to contain the rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases.

The government is also weighing the option of suspending all domestic air travel to effectively fight the coronavirus crisis. The top brass in the government is assessing the unfolding situation for taking a call in this regard, a government official said on condition of anonymity.

The need for suspension of domestic air travel is felt as it carries close to 13 million passengers across the country every month. A temporary suspension of domestic flights will complement the suspension of rail and road transport.

Indian Railways runs more than 13,500 passenger trains in a day, which will be cancelled till 31 March. Goods trains, 9,000 of which run every day, will be exempted. The decision will hinge on the severity of the pandemic in the days ahead. The official cited above said a temporary suspension could not be ruled out.

At a meeting of central and state officials on Sunday, it was decided that there was an urgent need to extend the curbs on movement of non-essential passenger transport till the end of the month. India observed a voluntary curfew on Sunday as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

The Centre advised states to issue lockdown orders, allowing only essential services, in the 75 districts that have reported Covid-19 cases or casualties. “In the view of the need to contain the spread of Covid-19, it was agreed that there is urgent need to extend the restrictions on the movement of non-essential passenger transport, including interstate transport till March 31, 2020," an official statement said.

While several states have already issued orders placing curbs on travel and banning mass gatherings, the Centre has advised them to expand the list of prohibitory orders depending on their assessment of the situation.

On Sunday evening, the Delhi government said private buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws will not be allowed to operate in the national capital. Domestic and international flights will not be allowed to land in Delhi till 31 March. However, a civil aviation ministry official later said domestic flights to and from the Indira Gandhi International Airport will continue operating and the airport will remain functional.

Delhi Metro Rail Corp. Ltd (DMRC) said that as per the latest decision by the Prime Minister’s Office, metro service will remain closed till 31March. “The Delhi Metro system will, however, continue to be powered for essential internal operational maintenance activities during this duration and security of the system will continue to be taken care of by CISF," DMRC said in a statement.

In a message to all managing directors of metro services in the country, housing secretary D.S. Mishra said this was being done in continuation of the closing down of services on 22 March, the day of the curfew.

Ride hailing firms are assessing the impact of the lockdown across states. “Ola cab services will be limited across the country," a person aware of the development told Mint.

Pretika Khanna contributed to this story.

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