Coronavirus: India verging upon nationwide lockdown

Novel coronavirus: India verging upon nationwide lockdown

A man, wearing a facemask amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, takes pictures with a mobile phone at the Jama Masjid mosque in the old quarters of New Delhi. (Photo by AFP)

Battling with the novel coronavirus pandemic, India on Monday announced heading for a nationwide lockdown with a group of ministers proposing closure of all educational establishments (schools and universities included) and almost every type of public place till March 31 besides asking the private sector to encourage its employees to work from home.

While people have been advised to skip non-essential travel, the agencies running buses, trains and aeroplanes would have to maximise social distancing in public transport, besides ensuring regular and proper disinfection of surfaces.

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All ASI-protected monuments and central museums across India to be shut till March 31 in view of COVID-19, Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said.

With Europe hit hard by the rampaging virus, aviation companies have been asked not to pick up any passengers from any of the European Union countries as well as UK and Turkey between March 18 and March 31, closing the doors on those who want to travel or return to India. This means even the home-bound Indians would have to stay put where they are.

READ: Maharashtra govt to tag people under self-quarantine

Further, on the travel front, passengers coming from or transiting through UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait would have to face a minimum period of 14 days compulsory quarantine at the port of entry, starting from March 18.

The lock-down decisions were taken by the Group of Ministers headed by the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. The objective for such extensive containment measures is to arrest the novel coronavirus 2019 within a cluster, preventing their entry into a winder community.

With four new cases, the total number of positive cases in India rises to 114 in the central database. But health officials said the next two weeks were vital to check the extent of the spread.

Track live updates on the coronavirus here

The GoM has suggested that school boards may explore the possibility of postponing the examinations but ongoing examinations are to be conducted only after maintaining a physical distance of one meter between two students.

Gyms, museums, cultural and social centres, swimming pools and theatres are proposed to be shut till March 31. Students are advised to stay at home.

Restaurants are told to follow hand washing protocol and proper cleanliness of frequently touched surfaces. They also have to ensure physical distancing of a minimum one metre between tables. If possible open-air seating arrangements can be made.

At each level, local authorities will have a dialogue with organisers of sporting competitions involving large gatherings and advise them to postpone such events. Similarly, religious leaders too would be told to regulate the mass gathering and to ensure no overcrowding.

The authorities would also reach out to traders to regulate hours at vegetable markets, bus depots, rail stations and post offices where essential services are provided.

Whenever feasible, the meetings in the government and private sector, are to be held via video conferencing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the centenary celebration of Bangabandhi Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Dhaka through video conferencing.

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