The country will observe an unprecedented shutdown on Sunday following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal for a ‘Janata curfew’, where people have been urged to voluntarily stay indoors to check the spread of coronavirus while public transport will be suspended or curtailed and all markets and establishments except those dealing in essential goods and services will be closed on the day.
Cutting across party lines, chief ministers and others leaders urged the people to follow the self-imposed curfew from 7 am to 9 pm, noting that “social distancing” was key to breaking the chain of transmission, as the number of coronavirus cases rose to 283 after 60 new cases were detected on Saturday, the highest so far in a day, and states like Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Bihar announced partial lockdown till month end.
No passenger train will originate from any railway station in the country from midnight to 10 pm on Sunday while all suburban train services will be reduced to a bare minimum as well. Metro services, including in Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai, will remain suspended for the day.
Air carriers like GoAir, IndiGo and Vistara have announced that they will be curtailing domestic operations on Sunday.
Traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has announced that they will keep their establishments shut across the country for the ‘Janata curfew’.
From suspending regular prayers involving large gatherings in shrines of various faiths, including Sunday mass, to disallowing jail inmates from meeting their families on the day, organisations and institutions in every sphere have announced restrictions.
Modi had on Thursday called for the ‘Janata curfew’ from 7 am to 9 pm on March 22, saying no citizen, barring those in essential services, should get out of their houses, and asserted that it will be a litmus test to show India’s readiness to take on the coronavirus challenge.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla asked chief secretaries of all states to ensure that the ‘Janata Curfew’ is observed properly and to see that local bodies, fire services, police and civil defence blow sirens or ring bells on Sunday evening to express gratitude towards those involved in tackling the disease.
“We are looking for unity in isolation,” Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health Lav Agarwal told reporters.
Describing it as the need of the hour, Union Home Minister Amit Shah asked everyone in the country to support the step.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu too made a fervent appeal to the people of the country to confine themselves to homes. He said that since the virus spreads through physical contact, social distancing is an effective measure to contain its spread by avoiding contact during the incubation period of the virus.
“It is a matter of great assurance that people have responded very positively to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Saturday.
In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said 50 per cent of the buses will ply on roads on Sunday considering some people may have to travel due to an emergency.
Autos and taxis will, however, be off roads in the national capital as several unions including the Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh, Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union, Delhi Auto Taxi Transport Congress Union and Delhi Taxi Tourist Transport Association, have decided to join the ‘Janata curfew’.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appealed to the people of the state to stay indoors on Sunday.
“Metro trains, roadways buses and city buses will not operate on Sunday,” the statement said on behalf of the chief minister.
“Coronavirus is in the second stage all over the country. It will convey a big message to the entire world if we are successful in stopping this at this stage.
“To curb this infection, we are working on a war footing. Isolation wards have been set up in every district hospital and medical college. So far, 23 patients have been identified in the state, out of which nine have completely recovered. There is no need to panic, but prepare yourself to fight against this challenge,” the UP chief minister said in the statement.
Leaders and other prominent personalities also urged the traders not to hoard essential items and the people to purchase only necessary things.
“We can prevent the virus entering third stage if people stay indoors and for that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced Janata Curfew on March 22,” Tamil superstar Rajinikanth said in a video message.
The entire humanity seems to be in danger, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, adding that social distancing is the best way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bihar government ordered shutting down of bus services, restaurants and banquet halls across the state till March 31. All schools and malls are already closed in the state.
The voluntary curfew should not seen as a burden, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said.
Except emergency services, including medical, fire services and electricity, others should close down voluntarily and people should stay at home for 24 hours in the interest of their own families, state, country and humanity, he said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan too asked the people of the state to cooperate with the ‘Janata curfew’ and engage in cleaning their home and surroundings.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council had decided to stop holy mass with people’s participation in Churches under its control.
Archbishop of Goa Filipe Neri Ferrao cancelled the Sunday mass at all churches in support of the call for “janata” curfew to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Delhi too, St Peter’s Mar Thomas Syrian Church, Patparganj and Cathedral Church of Redemption in central Delhi have cancelled Sunday mass and all services for next week, sources said.
Prominent Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh said it will remain closed on March 22 and asked its students not to venture outside.
The Jammu and Kashmir Waqf Board announced suspension of regular prayers at mosques and shrines affiliated to it in the Kashmir valley as a preventive measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
On Saturday, the prime minister thanked various organisations and business bodies for their efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.
“Never forget — precautions not panic!” he said adding that it is not only important to be home but also remain in the town/ city where you are.
“Unnecessary travels will not help you or others. In these times, every small effort on our part will leave a big impact,” Modi said reacting to tweets by people on the virus.
This is the time we should all listen to the advice given by doctors and authorities, he said.
“All those who have been told to stay in home quarantine, I urge you to please follow the instructions. This will protect you as well as your friends and family,” he said.
The prime minister also shared a video which showed how virus spreads and ways to check its outbreak taking small precautions.
The Odisha government on Saturday announced a “near total” shutdown in five districts and eight other prominent towns for a week.
These districts are Khurda, Ganjam, Cuttack, Kendrapara and Angul, while the towns include Puri, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Balasore, Rourkela, Bhadrak, Jajpur Road and Jajpur.
Authorities have already ordered a shutdown in Maharashtra’s major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Nagpur.The Akola district administration also ordered a sectoral lockdown between March 22 and 24.
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