Clampdown on 82 Covid-hit districts

Janata Curfew beginning of a long battle. PM

Clampdown on 82 Covid-hit districts

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 22

India on Sunday responded overwhelmingly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for people’s curfew to battle the growing Covid-19 pandemic, encouraging the government to order an unprecedented lockdown in an attempt to break the chain of viral transmission.

While Janata Curfew was underway, the Centre asked states to shut down all non-essential services in districts with a Covid confirmed case or death. By Sunday evening, the number of such districts was 82.

Punjab, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh and Bihar ordered lockdowns until March 31, saying only essential services (medical, groceries, dairy items, fruits, vegetables, petrol pumps) would be available.

The move towards near pan-India lockdown (23 states now have confirmed Covid cases) came on a day when India saw three more deaths (one each in Mumbai, Patna and Surat) due to the disease, taking the toll to seven and the cases surged to 396 in the highest 24-hour rise so far.

The decision to extend the voluntary Janata Curfew into a shutdown was taken to ensure social distancing between people which, according to experts, is the only way to flatten the growing curve of virus transmission. So far, the cases in India only involve people with travel history abroad or their direct contacts.

The executive actions the Centre and states took today to quarantine most of the nation are primarily aimed at halting the virus from transmitting into the community or to reduce its impact.

The lockdown decisions were taken today at a high-level meeting Cabinet Secretary Rajeev Gauba and PK Mishra, Principal Secretary to the PM, held with state Chief Secretaries and Health Secretaries. The meeting agreed to suspend all non-essential passenger transport till March 31, including inter-state buses.

“The state governments were asked to issue appropriate orders; only essential services to operate in all districts which have reported confirmed cases or casualties due to Covid-19,” a government statement said, adding that the states could expand the lockdown depending on their assessment of the situation on the ground.

Starting midnight Sunday to March 31 midnight, all trains will remain suspended except the goods trains. All suburban rail and metro services, including Delhi Metro, will not operate. The Centre said states could issue orders to allow emergency metro services in the districts with confirmed Covid cases.

The day also saw citizens coming out in large numbers across the country to thank corona warriors by clapping, ringing cymbals, clanging utensils to honour the call given by PM Modi to express gratitude to India’s first line of defence against a dreaded virus.

The PM’s mother Heeraben also joined the national thanksgiving by clanging a utensil today. The PM later tweeted, “Mother, your participation in this effort will inspire lakhs of warriors like doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, paramedics, police personnel and mediapersons in this fight against the pandemic. It will give them the strength to carry on.”

Modi thanked everyone for the successful self-isolation today: “Janata Curfew may end at 9 pm today but that does not mean we begin celebrations. This is the start of a prolonged battle. Today Indians have shown they are capable and with their resolve they can defeat the gravest of challenges.”

The PM also asked people not to venture out of their homes in the districts where curfew had been clamped and even otherwise stay home until absolutely necessary to venture out.

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