Andhra Pradesh will be under lockdown till March 31, with interstate public transport suspended, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy announced on Sunday. All non-essential commercial shops will also be shut down.
All public transport within the state will also be suspended, while autos and taxis must be used only under inevitable circumstances, Jagan said, adding that no more than two people must board these vehicles.
“Non-essential commercial shops, like gold shops, clothings stores etc. must remain closed till March 31. Establishments, offices, factories, workshops, and godowns are requested to be run with skeletal staff,” he said, adding that the government will also be employing staff on a rotational basis.
Meanwhile, he assured that essential services like water, groceries, vegetables, milk, meat, electricity, telecom, food delivery services, medicines, petrol bunks, LPG etc. will remain completely available.
He also directed District Collectors to ensure that prices of essential commodities and medicines are kept in check, and to take strict action against those who sell such items at hiked prices. “District Collectors will soon advertise maximum allowed prices for goods, including vegetables and groceries,” he said.
Requesting people to not gather in groups of more than ten, he that prohibitory orders will soon be put in place.
"However, we need to conduct the Assembly session, as it is essential to pass the budget, so we will have to make an exception. We will still try to complete the session in the minimum possible time," The Chief Minister said.
Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams for Class 10 and Intermediate exams for Class 12 will continue as planned, he said, adding that if any child shows symptoms of COVID-19, special rooms will be arranged for them. He also said that social distancing protocol will be maintained while conducting exams.
He also requested farmers and farm workers to only go to their fields if essential and to maintain sufficient distance with others while doing so. “I request elderly people to not step outside. Do not send out kids under 10 years of age either, as they find it hard to maintain social distance and can easily become carriers,” he said.
As a measure to support the poor during the lockdown as they will not be able to find work, families who fall below the poverty line will be provided ration for free, along with 1 kg of dal, Jagan said. He also said that on April 4, each family will receive an amount of Rs 1,000 as support at their doorstep through village volunteers.
Noting that several states have already closed their borders to interstate travel, the CM said that it is inevitable that Andhra Pradesh must also take steps in that direction. “Since the entire nation is moving in this direction, the situation demands that we all take similar steps till March 31,” he said.
He also directed all foreign returnees to the state to remain under strict home quarantine for a 14 day period.
“I request everybody to please stay at home, and step out only if necessary, for basic services. When you do leave the house, maintain a distance of two metres from others,” he said.
As preparatory measures, he also announced plans to set up a 100-bed isolation facility in each constituency, and a 200-bed isolation facility in every district headquarters.
The Andhra government had announced 5 positive cases of coronavirus in the state so far, in Nellore, Ongole, Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry and Vijayawada. On Sunday, the state reported its first case of local transmission of COVID-19 as a woman, a close contact of a man tested positive earlier, was found infected.
Extending support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for ‘Janata Curfew’ across the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Jagan, along with Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney, Minister of Health, Family Welfare and Medical Education Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas, and Special Chief Secretary (Health) KS Jawahar Reddy, clapped hands at 5 pm in support of healthcare workers and others delivering medical and emergency services while the country deals with the pandemic.
The government had already announced the closure of all educational institutions, as well as cinema halls, malls, gyms, swimming pools, museums, cultural centres and major places of worship, including the Venkateswara temple in Tirumala, and the Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha temple in Simhachalam.
Elections to urban and rural local bodies, which were earlier scheduled to take place starting from March 21, have been postponed by 6 weeks by the State Election Commission.
The state government has also announced that government employees can work from home on alternate weeks on a rotational basis. As per the system, at any given time, 50 percent of government employees would be working from home.
The government has also deployed the village and ward secretariat employees, as well as ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) and ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, as part of its measures to contain COVID-19.
According to an official release, nearly 4.5 lakh volunteers and secretaries from 11,158 village secretariats and 3786 ward secretariats have been roped in to perform door-to-door surveys, to identify those who have returned from abroad recently, and those who have come into contact with foreign returness, and ensure that they are under home quarantine.