Today's Paper

80 districts in lockdown to contain virus spread

With first deaths reported in Bihar and Gujarat, toll rises to 7; inter-State transport, suburban trains, bus services suspended

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 376. 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.

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