Coronavirus | No curbs on essential goods: Centre

States will act against those violating measures, will send a daily report to Union government

Published - March 24, 2020 11:16 pm IST - New Delhi

Stocking up: People waiting at a pharmacy to buy medicines in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Stocking up: People waiting at a pharmacy to buy medicines in Mumbai on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a slew of guidelines to be followed by the States to contain COVID-19 and asked all “enforcement authorities to note that these strict restrictions fundamentally relate to the movement of people, but not to that of essential goods.”

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a tweet that the “list of essential services remains unchanged since March 22nd Janata Curfew.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs said all commercial and private establishments shall be closed, except “ration shops (under the PDS), dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish, animal fodder.” “However, district authorities may encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimise the movement of individuals outside their homes,” the guidelines said.

The Ministry said “delivery of all essential goods, including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment through e-commerce” would be allowed.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issued an order asking the States to act against any person violating the containment measures as per provisions of Section 51-60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC, punishable by up to two years in jail and and a fine.

In another letter addressed to the Chief Secretaries, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla asked the States to send daily reports on the implementation of the strict measures as “lack of uniformity in the measures adopted as well as their implementation may not serve the purpose of containing the spread of the virus.” The guidelines were similar to the measures being taken by the States. According to the guidelines, the district magistrates will deploy executive magistrates as “Incident Commanders” in the respective local jurisdictions for the enforcement of the 21-day lockdown as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The guidelines said offices of the government of India, its autonomous subordinate offices and public corporations shall remain closed. But the offices of defence, Central armed police forces, treasury, public utilities (including petroleum, CNG, LPG, PNG), disaster management, power generation and transmission units, post, the National Informatics Centre and early warning agencies would be exempted.

“Hospitals and all related medical establishments, including manufacturing and distribution units such as dispensaries, chemist and medical equipment shops, laboratories, clinics, nursing homes and ambulances, will continue to remain functional. The transportation for all medical personnel, nurses, para-medical staff, other hospital support services be permitted,” the Ministry said.

It said hotels, homestay, lodges and motels, which are accommodating tourists and persons stranded because of the lockdown, medical and emergency staff, air and sea crew and establishments used/earmarked for quarantine shall remain open. “All places of worship shall be closed for the public. No religious congregations will be permitted without any exception,” the Ministry said.

In case of funerals, a congregation of not more than 20 persons will be permitted, it said. “All persons who have arrived in India after February 15, 2020, and all such persons who have been directed by health care personnel to remain under strict home/institutional quarantine for a period as decided by local health authorities, failing which they will be liable to legal action under Section 188 of the IPC,” the Ministry said.

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