COVID-19: A mad rush out of Bengaluru just before the 21-day lockdown

Chief Minister announced that people can travel back to home towns before midnight to celebrate Ugadi

Updated - March 25, 2020 07:41 am IST

Published - March 24, 2020 11:27 pm IST

Tractors lined up at the Nelamangala toll gate on Tumakuru Road on Tuesday night.

Tractors lined up at the Nelamangala toll gate on Tumakuru Road on Tuesday night.

Hours before the 21-day national lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa allowed a final window till midnight for people wishing to travel to their home towns by lifting the ban on inter-district movement that had been enforced since Monday.

This led to a sudden rush, with many people trying to return to their home towns. With buses and other vehicles off the road, people could be seen desperately trying to find means of transportation. This rush threw the idea of social distancing – mandatory to avoid spread of COVID-19 – to the winds.

Surprise move

The announcement by the Chief Minister, soon after inaugurating the war room for COVID-19, came as a a surprise. Earlier in the day. he had told police to strictly enforce a “curfew-like” situation.

Stating that the government will enforce “complete nakabandhi” from Wednesday, he justified the window as “several people who took the highway to their home towns were stuck in traffic jams that led to police being directed to let these vehicles pass”. The measure, the Chief Minister explained in a statement, was taken to enable people to be home to celebrate Ugadi.

Sources in the Chief Minister's office said that the decision was taken as several thousand people were stuck at various toll booths across the State, and that it would have caused other problems. “This was a one-time decision taken to enable people to reach their destinations. They cannot, however, return or take to the road from Wednesday morning when the total shutdown will be in place,” said a source.

CM’s assurance

In a statement after the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, Mr. Yediyurappa said, “I fully assure the people that our government will take care of people during this hour of crisis. At this juncture, I warn hoarders and blackmailers not to exploit the situation and the predicament of the people, particularly the poor.”

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