Coronavirus | U.P. to seal virus hotspots in 15 districts

Officials asked to ensure 100% home delivery; shops and vegetable markets not to be allowed to open

April 08, 2020 09:46 pm | Updated April 09, 2020 12:28 am IST - LUCKNOW

 A team of Lucknow police march through a street in Qaiserbagh in Lucknow asking people to not crowd outside shops as anxious public started lining up outside shops and stores to pack up supply on Wednesday evening.

A team of Lucknow police march through a street in Qaiserbagh in Lucknow asking people to not crowd outside shops as anxious public started lining up outside shops and stores to pack up supply on Wednesday evening.

The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday decided to completely seal COVID-19 hotspots within 15 districts till the end of the lockdown on April 14. The announcement, first made orally by a senior official, triggered panic buying among anxious public who stepped out to the markets in big numbers as confusion prevailed over which areas would come under the purview of the total lockdown. Several hours after the government decision, officials were yet to declare the names of the hotspots in many districts.

Also read: Lockdown likely to be extended in Uttar Pradesh

Meanwhile, the number of positive cases in U.P. reached 361, with 195 cases linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, said the U.P. Directorate of Health Services. Positive cases have been so far reported in 38 out of the 75 districts.

The government listed 100 such hotspots spread across 15 districts, including Lucknow, Noida, Ghaziabad, Agra, Varanasi and Meerut. The district-wise hotspots to be sealed stood as — Agra (22 hotspots), Ghaziabad (13), Noida (12), Kanpur (12), Shamli (3), Meerut (7) including some rural areas, Varanasi (4), Bareilly (1), Bulandshahr (3), Basti (3), Firozabad (3), Saharanpur (4), Maharajganj (4), Lucknow (12) including 8 major ones, and Sitapur (1).

The “affected areas” in these 15 districts, which have reported six or more positive cases, should be “completely sealed” to make the lockdown secure, the State’s top official Rajendra Kumar Tiwari said in instructions to District Police and administrative heads.

“In a high-level review, the COVID-19 load in your districts was found to be excessive,” Chief Secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari said in a letter to all District Magistrates, Superintendents of Police and Divisional Commissioners.

Mr. Tiwari instructed officials to review the movement passes issued in these districts and cancel those that were “unnecessary”.

Also read: Agra registers first death, taking tally to 4 in Uttar Pradesh

Officials were asked to ensure 100% home delivery in affected areas. Shops and vegetable mandi s would also not be allowed to open, so there is strict implementation of lockdown and social distancing, the Chief Secretary said.

The complete lockdown system was first implemented in some areas of Agra and it produced “good results”, said Awanish Awasthi, Additional Chief Secretary-Home Department, explaining the rationale behind the decision.

“Wherever we have enforced 100% lockdown, the load of the disease has decreased,” Mr. Awasthi said.

Confusion among the public started after Mr. Tiwari told media that affected areas in 15 districts would be sealed to prevent community spread but did not elaborate which areas would be included. Many television channels initially reported that the entire 15 districts, and not just the hotspots identified, would be completely sealed.

Mr. Awasthi, then in the official government briefing, clarified that the total lockdown would be enforced in only the hotspots while the rest of the State would continue to function as per the prevailing lockdown norms.

“There is no need to panic or get unnecessarily hassled,” Mr. Awasthi said.

Panic buying

However, by the time his statement arrived, people had already started queuing up outside shops, ration stores and medical stores to purchase essential items. Panic buying was reported even from areas which did not feature among the list of hotspots as the government did not announce the names.

Many people who stepped out to buy grocery and other items, expressed concerns over the uncertainty of how things would shape up on Thursday. Some wondered how the government would execute doorstep delivery of food and medicine in dense localities.

“How do we know they will allow us to purchase even food items or medicines from tomorrow,” asked a local in Latouche Road, parts of which comes under the eight hotspots in the U.P. capital.

Mujahid, a baker, said he found it hard to handle the sudden rush of customers. He wondered how the supply chain would operate in the areas sealed by police.

Shops shut

Police teams marched through the dense localities of Aminabad and Qaiserbagh to allay public fears, and appealed to people to not crowd outside shops. They forced many shops to shut and dispersed the crowds.

“Don’t fall for the rumours and crowd outside shops. Don’t think that there is a curfew and you won’t get things. There will be no shortage of items,” announced a police officer through a loudspeaker in Qaiserbagh area, where two localities have been sealed.

Agra (64 positive cases), Noida (58), Meerut (35), Lucknow (29), Ghaziabad (27), Shamli (17), Saharanpur (14) and Sitapur (10) were among the most-affected districts in U.P.

Mr. Awasthi said “all concessions” would cease in the hotspot areas and the lockdown would be implemented strictly.

The hotspot areas would be segregated though strict barricading to avoid movement of people, and extensive sanitation drives would take place there, said Director General of Police Hitesh Chandra Awasthi.

All homes in these affected areas should also be sanitised, the government said.

The government also asked officials to arrange vehicle pooling services to transport workers in establishments providing essential services.

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