In view of the rising Covid-19 cases in the state that reported 1,420 fresh cases on Friday, the Gujarat government has decided to impose night curfew in Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot from Saturday.
People resorted to panic buying in Ahmedabad that will see a complete curfew from Friday night till Monday morning, leading the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to seal a mart that saw overcrowding.
During the curfew, essential services such as medical shops, hospitals, clinics, dairy booths and petroleum/CNG pumps will remain open. Rail and air passengers as well as candidates appearing for various competitive exams will be allowed to commute during the curfew if they possess valid travel tickets and admit cards respectively.
Addressing a press conference in Gandhinagar Friday evening, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said the decision followed a meeting of the core group with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, and senior police and administrative officials, where it was decided to impose total curfew from 9 pm Friday to 6 am Monday in Ahmedabad and night curfew — from 9 pm to 6 am — from Saturday until further notice in Vadodara, Rajkot and Surat.
“This is the time when thousands of families in Gujarat travel to their native places or go on vacation during Diwali and Gujarati New Year… during the meeting, it was decided to take steps to reduce rising cases of coronavirus infection. There is no need to pay heed to any rumour,” said Patel who also holds the health portfolio, adding, “we request similar cooperation from citizens that we saw during earlier lockdown and subsequent unlock”.
The announcement came even as the daily health bulletin of the state government claimed that “the state government has managed to slowly and steadily control Covid infection”.
Patel said, “The situation that emerged over the past five six days led us to take the decision (with respect to complete curfew for two days in Ahmedabad).”
Patel denied that there was any laxity on behalf of the state government, when mediapersons questioned if the state government was negligent by ignoring Diwali crowding.
“We did not permit Navratri celebrations, we prohibited temple worship… there was complete compliance from the state government as well as citizens… for some days we saw a bit of crowding in markets in some of the cities… With over 1,400 cases (as reported on Friday), we have only seen an increase of 100 cases (compared to Thursday)… Delhi is seeing 5,000-6,000 cases each day, where the population is two crore… you can see how well we have controlled, where in our 6.30 crore population, we are seeing just 1,400 cases,” said Patel.
Rupani, who was in Ambaji earlier in the day, said, “During holidays, the corona infection has seen a rise and the state government has taken certain decisions in the past 2-3 days… as a precautionary measure, we have imposed a curfew on Ahmedabad. Surveillance and testing have been increased… hospital bed capacity, which was cut down when the cases went down, have been increased again.”
When asked if there would be a lockdown across the state, he said, “There is no talk of lockdown… only a weekend curfew for Ahmedabad and generally stricter policing.”
Ahmedabad city police commissioner Sanjay Srivastava issued a notification under Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) section 144 on Friday, prohibiting “movement of people outside their homes onto any road, street or public places from Friday night to Monday morning. Action will be taken against offenders under Indian penal code section 188 for disobdience to order given by public servant (sic).”
The AMC solid waste management team cracked down on those found without masks on Friday and also sealed the D-Mart store at Shyamal crossroad where people flocked to stock up ahead of the curfew.
AMC officials, along with with police, detained 256 commuters who were found without masks. They were tested for Covid-19 and nine emerged positive. They were isolated at Samras Covid care centre, according to an official. The remaining 247 were penalised Rs 1,000 each.
Srivastava’s notification exempted petroleum/LPG/CNG pumps, electricty production and transmission units, telecommunication services, national information centre, police, home guards, civil defence, fire and emergency services, disaster management, armed police forces, prison and municipality services from the curfew.
The exemption also includes medical services, pharmaceutical home delivery through e commerce, milk distribution, private security services as well as units engaged in production of necessary goods.
According to Rajendra Asari, additional commissioner of police, sector 1 in Ahmedabad, as many as 11 Deputy commissioners of police, 32 assistant commissioners of police, 57 police inspectors, 215 police sub-inspectors, 7,000 police personnels and 2,635 home guards will be deployed in the city to maintain curfew for 57 hours.
“Those appearing for examinations will be exempted on producing admit cards… their parents can arrange for transportation based on the admit card and ID proof,” said Asari.
The Vadodara administration has decided to “closely monitor” the Covid-19 situation in the city. Officer on special duty Vinod Rao said “no need to panic” but being cautious is the only way forward.
As rumours of a possible curfew spread in Vadodara on Friday, people queued up to buy daily essentials. The district tally is 16,940 positive cases until Friday and 1,135 active cases, of which 160 patients are on oxygen support while 56 are on BiPAP and ventilator.
Rao held a video-conference with officials of Gujarat Medical Education and Research Society GMERS-run Gotri hospital and SSG Hospital to take stock of the situation. “The number of Covid-19 patients admitted today in both the hospitals is less than 140, against the capacity of more than 550 each… There is a marginal increase in patients over the past five days in private hospitals. We have instructed all hospitals to gear up to full capacity within the next three days.”
Rao also held virtual meeting with the Zonal Health Officers and Medical Officers of all Urban PHCs. “We will start the next round of intensive door-to-door surveillance from Monday. About 825 teams comprising of health, ICDS and education staff will cover the city in five days. We are also activating Dhanwantari Raths to full capacity. Home-based Covid care efforts will also be fully reactivated,” Rao said.
The city will also see more RT PCR and Antigen Tests from Saturday. Rao added, “While Vadodara has no reason to panic, all citizens are requested to observe all necessary precautions.”
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