As the Janata Curfew called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi wound up Sunday with people across the country responding by staying indoors and applauding those working to battle the coronavirus threat, the government prepared the nation for a long lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
In a slew of extraordinary measures, authorities announced a complete lockdown of 75 districts in 22 States and Union Territories and suspended all passenger trains, inter-state buses and metro services across the country till March 31.
Delhi, Jharkhand, Punjab and Nagaland declared a statewide lockdown, exempting only essential services, while similar curbs were announced in a number of districts in Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray suspended the services of state transport and private buses but allowed bus services within cities so that people involved in essential services can get to work. He also pared down the number of employees at government offices to 5 per cent of the total staff strength.
Several states including Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand had earlier imposed a partial or complete lockdown.
Announcing measures in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Anil Baijal told a press conference that Delhi will be on lockdown from 6 am Monday to midnight March 31. Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad will also suspend all but essential services.
Public transport, including private cabs such as Ola and Uber, the Metro, religious places, and international flights as well as construction will be suspended. Buses under the DTC will work at 25% capacity. State borders will also be sealed, allowing only those involved in essential services to cross over. Assembly of more than five persons has been outlawed.
Shortly after the Delhi government’s order, a spokesperson for the Central Civil Aviation Ministry clarified that the IGI Airport will continue to operate. “Domestic flights to and from IGI Airport, Delhi shall continue to operate and the Airport shall remain functional,” the spokesperson said.
As his government issued orders to lock down 75 districts from where positive cases or deaths have been reported, Prime Minister Modi, taking to Twitter, said: “Janata Curfew will end at 9 pm but it doesn’t mean we start celebrating. It’s the beginning of a long battle. People shouldn’t come out of houses in states which have announced a lockdown. In rest of the states, if it’s not very important, don’t come out of the houses.”
At 5 pm Sunday, people across the country clapped, banged metal vessels, blew conch shells to applaud those working to battle coronavirus. “The country thanked each person who led the fight against the corona virus. Many thanks to the countrymen,” Modi tweeted.
Officials said the decision on these extraordinary steps were taken at a high-level meeting of Chief Secretaries of all States and the Cabinet Secretary and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.
“It was agreed that there is urgent need to extend the restrictions on the movement of non-essential passenger transport including inter-state transport buses till 31st March 2020,” an official statement issued after the meeting said.
“The state governments were advised to issue appropriate orders to allow only essential services to operate in the 75 districts which have reported confirmed cases or casualties relating to COVID 19,” it said. “The state governments may expand the list depending on their assessment of the situation.”
The decision to stop inter-state public transport was taken after people, especially migrant workers in big cities, scrambled to take trains to return to their villages, mostly in the eastern states.
The 75 districts identified after the meeting account for nearly 24 crore of the total population — about 20 per cent of the population according to the 2011 census. The total lockdown population could be higher since many states have decided to widen the lockdown.
Andhra Pradesh: Prakasam, Vijayawada and Vizag
Delhi: Central, East Delhi, North Delhi, North West Delhi, North East Delhi, South Delhi and West Delhi
Gujarat: Kutchh, Rajkot, Gandhinagar, Surat, Vadodara, and Ahmedabad
Haryana: Faridabad, Sonepat, Panchkula, Panipat and Gurugram
Himachal Pradesh: Kangra
Jammu & Kashmir: Srinagar and Jammu
Karnataka: Bengaluru, Chikkaballapura, Mysore, Kodagu and Kalaburgi
Kerala: Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Idukki, Kannur, Kasaragod, Kottayam, Malappuram, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur
Ladakh: Kargil and Leh
Madhya Pradesh: Jabalpur
Maharashtra: Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Mumbai, Nagpur, Mumbai Suburb, Pune, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Thane and Yavatmal
Punjab: Hoshiarpur, SAS Nagar and SBS Nagar
Rajasthan: Bhilwara, Jhunjhunu, Sikar and Jaipur
Tamil Nadu: Chennai, Erode and Kanchipuram
Telangana: Bhadradri Kothagudem, Hyderabad, Medchal, Rangareddy and Sangareddy
Uttar Pradesh: Agra, GB Nagar, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Lakhimpur Kheri and Lucknow
West Bengal: Kolkata and North 24 Parganas
— With ENS reports from New Delhi, Mumbai