All train, metro and inter-State transport services across the country were suspended on Sunday till March 31 as the death toll from COVID-19 rose to seven nationwide, and the number of confirmed cases stood at 396. Unprecedented restrictions were imposed in 80 districts across 17 States and five Union Territories affected by the pandemic.
The Union Health Ministry said Bihar and Gujarat had reported their first casualties from COVID-19. A 38-year-old man with a kidney ailment and recent travel history to Qatar died at AIIMS-Patna and a 67-year-old man died at a hospital in Surat. Another death of a 63-year-old man was reported from Mumbai.
Only essential services
“State governments will issue orders allowing only essential services to operate in districts with confirmed COVID-19 cases. The focus should be on closure of all activities except essential services such as hospitals, telecom, medicine shops and provision stores,” an official release said.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba described the new measures as further “pre-emptive” actions, given the “sharp increase” in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country after curbs on international travel, contact tracing and efforts at social distancing.
Indicating that the ‘Janata Curfew’ on Sunday was a precursor of more stringent measures, Mr. Gauba, in a letter to the Chief Secretaries, said the States need to “build on the momentum” of the 14-hour lockdown.
Calling on the States to operate transport within their boundaries at a “skeletal level”, the Centre said all these measures were temporary in nature but “vital to break” the chain of transmission of the pandemic.
Earlier in the day, the Railways announced suspension of all passenger services until March 31, including all suburban train services. Only goods trains will run during the period, the Railways said, adding that trains that had commenced their journey prior to 4 a.m. on March 22 would complete their journeys.
Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said the nature of “essential services” would be decided by the individual States. “We want to control the movement of people,” he said at a press briefing.
In response to questions, Mr. Agarwal was clear that more districts could be brought under curbs if they were affected by COVID-19. According to him, the lockdown was temporary in nature.
Barring essential services like hospitals, fire, prisons, banks and newspapers, States were conscious to ensure that the production and provisioning of medical supplies continued uninterrupted, he said.
According to the Health Ministry, Maharashtra continues with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 67, followed by Kerala with 52 and Delhi, 29. Uttar Pradesh had 27 cases, Karnataka has 26, Rajasthan 24, Telangana 22 and Haryana 21.
The Delhi Government closed its borders to Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and announced it would run a skeletal bus service.
However its announcement that all domestic flights had been suspended from Monday morning was contested by the Director-General of Civil Aviation, which said: “Domestic flights to and from IGIA Delhi shall continue to operate and the airport shall remain functional.”
In his letter, Mr. Gauba also suggested that State governments could request industries / establishments allow their staff to work from home and “provide renumeration to them during this period”.
The Cabinet Secretary said States could also take appropriate measures to help poor and vulnerable sections, including casual workers, in order to mitigate any hardships that might be caused.
(With PTI inputs)
Central, East Delhi, North Delhi, North West Delhi,
North East Delhi, South Delhi, West Delhi
Kuutchh, Rajkot, Gandhinagar Surat,
Faridabad, Sonepat, Panchkula,
|UT of J&K|
Bangalore, Chikkaballapura, Mysore,
Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Iduki, Kannur, Kasaragod, Kottayam,
Mallapuram, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur
|UT of Ladakh|
Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Mumbai, Nagpur, Mumbai suburb,
Pune, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Thane, Yavatmal
Hoshiarpur, SAS nagar, SBS Nagar
Bilwara, Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Jaipur
Chennai, Erode, Kanchipuram
Bhadradri Kothagudam, Hyderabad, Medchai,
Ranga Reddy, Sanga Reddy
Agra, GB Nagar, Ghaziabad, Varanasi,
Lakhimpur Kheri, Lucknow
Kolkata, North 24 Parganas