The Telangana government has decided to lock down the entire state until March 31, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this, all inter-state borders will be closed for passengers, and public transport will be shut down. Only goods vehicles will be allowed; private bus services will also not be allowed to function.
Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) made the announcement just hours after the Centre advised that a lockdown should be imposed in 75 districts in India where cases of COVID-19 have been reported. "Everyone should stay at home till March 31. That is the only way to defeat coronavirus. Not more than five people can gather on the streets. Only one person should step out for buying groceries and other essentials," KCR declared, announcing that the state government was invoking the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
KCR also said that five more people had tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday. "All of them are foreign returnees. Two are from London, two from Dubai and one from Scotland. Telangana state is lucky as community spread has not begun. We have been able to arrest the spread from foreign returnees," KCR added.
While those providing essential services (including pharmacies, banks and groceries) will remain open, the state government said that departments that are dubbed non-essential would only see 20% of their staff reporting to work on a rotational basis.
All educational activities in the state will be stopped, KCR declared. This includes paper correction, which was ongoing for the Class 10 Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams.
Wine shops across the state will also be shut.
"For daily wage labourers, we understand that they will go hungry. One month's ration will be disbursed to those with white ration cards. 12 kg of rice will be given to each person. Rs 1,500 would also be given to each family as financial assistance for buying essential items. For this, over 2,417 crore will be sanctioned by the state government," KCR said.
Honâ€™ble CM KCR Garu announced Telangana Lockdown till 31st March.â€” KTR (@KTRTRS) March 22, 2020
2.83 Cr people (87.59 lakh white cards) will receive free ration & financial assistance of â‚¹1500. Total â‚¹2,417 Crores to be borne by Govt#CoronaVirus #StaySafe #SocialDistanacing
The state government has also said that anganwadi centres will be closed down in the state and essential commodities for mid-day meals would be door delivered.
"For construction workers, one week's wages should be paid by the companies. It is a social responsibility. It is not enough to just look at profits during times like these," KCR said.
The Chief Minister also said that all non-essential surgeries in government and private hospitals will be postponed but deliveries will be facilitated for women during the lockdown.
"If we don't stop the spread now, it will be disastrous. One week's self-restraint will save the entire state and the nation. A review meeting will be held after March 31, when further decisions will be taken," KCR said.
At 4 pm, a high-level meeting was held in the presence of the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and Health Minister to discuss the Centre's advisory.
Meanwhile, roads in Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana wore a deserted look on Sunday as the 'Janata curfew' proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help check the spread of coronavirus began. Shops and eateries also remained closed in the state. Citizens remained indoors at several places in the city and across the state from Sunday morning after KCR on Saturday called for a 24-hour voluntary curfew from 6 am on March 22 to combat the spread of COVID-19. KCR had appealed to owners of shops, malls and other commercial establishments to down shutters voluntarily.
With a fresh case being reported on Sunday, the number of positive cases reported till date in Telangana rose to 22.
State-run Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) buses were not operating even as the Hyderabad Metro Rail remained closed, but five trains had been kept on stand-by to attend to any emergency.
The Telangana government on Saturday constituted a committee of experts to study the measures needed to control incidence of coronavirus in the state and to suggest steps based on successful models from the world over. Separately, The Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, was invoked in the state.
The Telangana government has already announced a number of measures, including the closure of all educational institutions (from primary school to university), coaching centres and summer camps till March 31, to prevent the spread of the virus in the state.