After a massive show of solidarity at 5 pm on Sunday, the country goes into a lockdown mode to stem the spread of the contagion and save lives
Govt said measures are temporary but are extremely vital to break the chain of transmission of the virus
New Delhi: Millions of Indians will face unprecedented restrictions, including a complete lockdown of 75 districts, and shutting down of metros, trains and inter-state buses, from Monday, as the government takes sweeping measures to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which has killed seven people and infected 396 in the country.
The emergency steps to stop the virus from spreading through social distancing were decided by the Union government in consultation with states and will stay in place till 31 March.
Apart from the national capital, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Chandigarh imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, prohibiting gathering of four or more people, even as other states began to shut borders. The Railways cancelled all passenger trains, and the officials signalled the government was weighing the option of cancelling domestic flights—international flights have already been stopped till 31 March.
The decisions came on Sunday, when there was a 14-hour nation-wide self-quarantine plan, following an appeal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
The decisions were taken at a meeting convened by cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba on Sunday morning, with chief secretaries of all states and the principal secretary to the prime minister.
At 5pm during the ‘Janata curfew’, people stepped out on to their balconies and outside their houses, clapping and banging vessels to thank the providers of essential services as suggested by Modi.
The government decided to identify dedicated hospitals for Covid-19 patients across the country, said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare.
Under the lockdown, all activities except essential services such as hospitals, telecom, medicine shops and grocery stores will be halted. However, establishments and factories engaged in manufacturing and distribution of essential commodities such as medicines, vaccines, sanitizers, masks, medical devices, their ancillaries and support services etc., would be exempted from these restrictions.
The government said these measures are temporary but are extremely vital to break the chain of transmission of the novel coronavirus.
For now, states and Union territories which have been placed under a partial or complete lockdown include Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
The Union department of personnel and training issued orders asking heads of departments in the government to draw up a roster from 23 to 31 March to enable only those employees rendering essential services, to operate from office.
In Maharashtra, government services will continue, but they will operate at 5% of their staff strength. If needed, the decision to extend Section 144 will be taken on 31 March, an official statement said.
Karnataka announced a lockdown of nine districts including Bengaluru to contain the pandemic, and imposed Section 144 across the state from 9pm to 12pm on Sunday. School and pre-university exams were postponed.
Chandigarh ordered a complete lockdown from 12am on 23 March, with all establishments and public transport ordered to remain shut. Nagaland imposed a state-wide lockdown, with vehicles carrying inter-state transit passengers to be permitted into the state until midnight of 23 March.
The Telangana government announced a complete lockdown till 31 March. Chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) also said ration card holders will get 12kg of rice.
Shaswati Das in New Delhi, Tanya Thomas and Kalpana Pathak in Mumbai, Sharan Poovanna in Bengaluru and Yunus Y Lasania in Hyderabad contributed to this story.
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