Be on alert for 6 months, practise social distancing: Odisha govt

Bhubaneswar, Mar 15 (PTI) The Odisha government asked people on Sunday to remain alert for at least six months, practise social distancing and refrain from spreading rumours and misinformation about the novel coronavirus pandemic, which it declared as a 'state disaster' two days ago.

While popular tourist sites, including the Konark Sun Temple, were closed for visitors as a precautionary measure, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) made filling of self-declaration forms mandatory for devotees before entering into the 12th-century shrine in Puri.

The Ganjam administration on Sunday night clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CRPC in the entire district to restrict public gathering. The prohibitory order would be in force till further order, said District Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange.

The measure is taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the district, Kulange said.

The state government also declared masks and hand sanitiser as 'essential commodities', and stepped up efforts to boost supply and prevent hoarding of these items, which are in high demand in wake of the coronavirus threat.

Emphasising that collective and responsible action was required to successfully contain the spread of the disease, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said personal inconveniences would be faced and families might have to make sacrifices, but 'extraordinary circumstances call for an extraordinary response'.

'Terming the #COVID19 outbreak a pandemic for human race, one without vaccine or treatment, CM @Naveen Odisha has appealed all the citizens to practice social distancing and refrain from spreading rumours and misinformation,' the chief minister's office tweeted.

Everyone should avoid social gatherings and assemblies like religious functions, marriage receptions. Being at home, reducing social interactions and avoiding gatherings will cut down vulnerability to a great extent, Patnaik said.

'Another important practice is frequent hand-washing. This should be practised and promoted by each of us in a mission mode,' he said.

According to official spokesperson Subroto Bagchi, people should be prepared for a long battle against the deadly disease. The war against COVID-19 is not the sole responsibility of the government, but it requires collective effort.

'We have launched preparations on war footing. It is not going to be a matter of a week or a month. I urge people to remain alert for at least 6 months to fight back the virus,' Bagchi said.

Stating that a high-level medical team had been formed to deal with the situation, Bagchi said the chief minister was monitoring the work.

Asking people not to believe in fake news and misinformation about COVID-19, he said staying calm without panicking and spreading awareness was the need of the hour.

The SJTA announced imposition of restrictions at the Jagannath temple in Puri. The decision on imposing restrictions was taken at a meeting attended by the SJTA chief administrator, Puri district collector and superintendent of police.

The servitors will have to wear mask while performing rituals and their duties inside the temple and they have been advised to wash their hands frequently, an official said.

The devotees will have to submit self-declaration forms before entering into the temple premises and maintain a gap of 2 metres while in a queue, SJTA chief administrator Krishan Kumar said.

As a precautionary measure, tourist and pilgrim sites were shut for visitors till further orders, officials said.

Precautionary measures have also been taken at the Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar to prevent huge crowd and people have been advised against visiting the site in large numbers, they said.

No one has been tested positive for coronavirus in the state, an official said.

Meanwhile, the state government on Sunday appointed four IAS officers as officers on special duty in the health and family welfare department till June 30. PTI SKN BDC HMB