The Delhi government on Sunday announced a lockdown of the national capital from 6am on March 23 to March 31 midnight in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The lockdown entails, amongst other measures, a ban on gatherings of more than five people, suspension of all public transport, shutting down of all commercial establishments, bazaars and offices and closing of inter-state borders.
“If we do not take strong steps now, and if a lockdown is imposed after the number of cases reaches 1,000 or 1,500, the measure will not be so effective. Also, if there is a spike in the figures, the healthcare system will not be able to deal with the numbers and there can be more deaths because of it,” said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as he announced the lockdown in a joint digital press conference with Lt Governor Anil Baijal.
“We have decided, for the sake of your health and for the sake of the country, that there will be a lockdown in Delhi starting tomorrow 6am and it will be on till 12am on March 31,” Kejriwal said.
No public transport, including autos or taxis, will be allowed to ply. Delhi Metro services have already been suspended till March 31. Interstate buses and trains will also not run. However, 25 per cent of the buses run by Delhi Transport Corporation will function.
All domestic and international flights have been suspended as part of the lockdown.
No commercial establishments, shops, bazaars, factories, godowns or private offices will be allowed to remain open. All religious places will remain closed. No construction activity will be permitted during the period of lockdown.
Among the services that are exempt from the lockdown are offices that deal with law and order and magisterial duties, all hospitals and health infrastructure, fire department, prison department, ration shops, electricity offices, water supply offices and municipal services, the pay and accounts office of Delhi government, print and electronic media, banking services, telecom, internet and postal services and e-commerce services catering to medicines and grocery.
Grocery shops, bakeries, shops selling meat or milk and milk plants, pharmacies and petrol pumps have also been allowed to function.
While private establishments will have to remain closed, their employees will be considered on duty and full salary will have to be paid to them. This would apply to both permanent and contractual employees.
The one-day budget session of the Delhi Assembly will happen on Monday despite the lockdown. The budget session was earlier scheduled to be from March 23 to 27, and was curtailed to just one day in view of the spread of coronavirus.
“If any person is out on the road, and he or she says that he works in an establishment providing essential services, the authorities will accept the explanation and no further questions will be asked,” Kejriwal said. He said the same would apply to people who venture out of their homes to avail of an essential service.
Delhi has so far seen 27 cases of COVID-19, of which 21 are people who came from abroad and the remaining six are cases of local transmission.