Bihar locks down urban areas till March 31

Patna, Mar 22 (PTI) The Bihar government on Sunday announced a lockdown in urban areas till March 31 to prevent the possible spread of the novel coronavirus.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the lockdown is being enforced in all districts, sub-divisional and block headquarters and municipal towns. It came into effect immediately.

Private organisations have been closed and public transport will not ply, he said.

Kumar urged people to 'extend their full cooperation' to the state government's campaign to curb the spread of coronavirus.

'We have emerged victorious in difficult times with the help of people. The government is with them in this hour of crisis. I am confident that together we will be able to face the challenges successfully,' the chief minister said.

Essential services such as healthcare, food and grocery shops, dairy and dairy-related shops, petrol pump, banks and ATMs, post offices and media houses have been exempted from the purview of the order, he added.

Appealing to people to stay indoors, Kumar said social distancing is the best way to protect oneself against coronavirus.

So far, Bihar has reported two COVID-19 cases, including one person who died at a hospital in Patna this morning.

According to a State Health Society bulletin, as many as 520 passengers who returned from coronavirus-hit countries after January 15 have been identified and kept under home quarantine.

A total of 20,786 passengers have been screened at Gaya and Patna airports, it said.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly Tejashwi Prasad Yadav demanded that the state government immediately provide special economic assistance of Rs 6,000 each to the poor to help them tide over the situation arising out of the closure of various firms.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader also demanded an advance payment of Rs 5,000 and ration to pensioners as well as advance payment of partial salaries to government employees.

RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwary announced that the party's state unit office will remain closed till March 31 as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus outbreak. PTI AR NN DIV DIV