Amid rising virus cases, TN stops inter-district public transport bus services for 6 days

(Eds: Adds details) Chennai, Jun 24 (PTI) Inter-district public transport bus services are being withdrawn for six days in Tamil Nadu from Thursday and e-pass made mandatory for travel outside a district, the government announced, reintroducing the curbs amid continuing surge in COVID-19 cases.

The decision was taken after district collectors at a virtual review meeting chaired by chief minister K Palaniswami made the suggestion, saying there were difficulties in contact tracing in case a person travelling outside a district without the e-pass tested positive for the deadly virus.

Also, officials said the virus was spreading in view of unrestricted travel by public within the zones.

Announcing the restoration of the curbs eased from June 1, Palaniswami referred to the view of officials as well and said private vehicles, including cars and two-wheelers, cannot make inter-zonal travel without e-pass.

People coming from other states and foreign countries should be quarantined and their entry shall be subject to possession of e-pass, he said in a statement.

E-passes are issued only for travel for medical emergencies, death or marriage of blood relatives and essential services.

Palaniswami also said rice ration card holders in Madurai will get the second round of Rs 1,000 cash assistance in view of the week-long complete lockdown enforced there from Wednesday to check rising cases.

Tamil Nadu clocked an all-time high of 2,865 positive cases in a single day on Wednesday, taking the tally to 67,468 while the toll mounted to 866 with 33 deaths.

The Chief Minister said the present 'zonal system' of allowing travel within a zone (comprising a number of nearby districts), without the need to obtain an e-pass has been temporarily cancelled.

The government, for transportation purposes, had earlier divided the state into eight zones and allowed public transport buses in all but two zones comprising Chennai and its neighbouring districts with high case load while doing away with the need for e-pass for intra-zone journeys.

Palaniswami said from June 25 to 30, people can travel without e-pass only within a district.

For inter-district journey, e-pass was needed and public transport bus services will operated within the confines of a given district for six days.

'I appeal to the people to extend their cooperation to prevent the spread of coronavirus,' he said.

In the review meeting, district collectors pointed out factors like the difficulty in tracking contacts of those who arrive in a district from another without an e-pass.

Only intra-district travel without e-pass may be allowed, the officials said.

'This proposal (of officials) has been accepted and the zonal system of transport is temporarily cancelled,' the chief minister said.

Palaniswami said he has ordered disbursement of Rs 1,000 to rice ration card holders in Madurai and other nearby areas which have come under intense curbs from Wednesday till June 30 without relaxations available previously like Chennai and parts of Chengelpet, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts.

The cash assistance has been announced for card holders in Chennai and nearby areas after the intensified lockdown was clamped on June 19.

Meanwhile, police in Chennai said three cab drivers and two state government employees, including a Revenue Inspector, were arrested in acase of alleged fraud in issuance of e- pass.

The passes were issued without due diligence in consideration of illegal gratification by the two government stafferswith the connivance of the drivers, they alleged.