Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an unprecedented 21-day lockdown for 1.3 billion Indians on Tuesday to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the country. This is the biggest ‘stay-at-home’ order in history.
As soon as he declared the lockdown, questions related to availability of essential services and what is a lockdown cropped up.
The prime minister assured citizens that the government will work to ensure supply of essential services. He, however, cautioned them against panic buying.
What is a lockdown?
The lockdown that the prime minister announced today is quite like a curfew, in his own words, where the movement of citizens is restricted and imposed strictly.
It is an emergency measure that prevents people from moving around and restricts them to a specified area -- such as their homes. It is basically an executive order asking people to stay where they are and not enter or exit a particular area.
The only exception for this is when people need to buy essential supplies, groceries, vegetables, water, medicines, milk, etc. While these services will be available, all other non-essential activities will remain shut for the entire 21-day lockdown period.
Even while India was not under a total lockdown, all trains, air and bus travel had been suspended across India. Restrictions are also already in place to ensure that people do not go from one city or state of another, or come out on the roads in their vehicles.
What essential services/goods will be available?
Essential activities include picking up groceries and medicines, water, milk, going to doctor and going on a walk provided you are following social distancing. If you work for an essential service, you will not need to adhere to these restrictions. Doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers will be exempt. Hospital, labs will remain open.
Shops, including ration shops (under PDS), dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish, animal fodder. However, district authorities may encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimize the movement of individuals outside their homes.
Banks, insurance offices and ATMs.
Print and electronic media.
Telecommunications, Internet services, broadcasting and cable services. IT and IT-enabled services (only for essential services) and as far as possible to work from home.
Delivery of all essential goods, including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment from e-Commerce.
Petrol pumps, LPG, petroleum and gas retail and storage outlets.
Capital and debt market services as notified by the Securities and Exchange Board of India.
Cold storage and warehousing services.
Private security services.
Transportation of essential goods allowed.
Fire, law & order, and emergency services will be available.
Hotels, homestays, lodges and motels which are accommodating persons stranded due to lockdown, medical and emergency staff, air and sea crew will be allowed to function.
Established used/earmarked for quarantine services will be functional.
In the case of funerals, not more than 20 persons will be permitted.
Should we stock up for 3 weeks?
The humanitarian thing to do is to not hoard or indulge in panic buying. Grocery, vegetable, milk, etc stores will be open, so ideally there should not be any need to stock up unreasonably. Also, such panic buying will lead to stocks getting depleted and others not getting anything. Also, with transport services being limited, replenishment of stocks may not be very prompt, but be responsible when you buy essentials. Think of your fellow citizens, too.
Can we go to work?
Many companies have allowed their staff to work from home. Some state governments too have enforced ‘work from home’. The government has also announced some relief/monetary packages for daily-wage earners and other temporary workers who will be the hardest hit due to the lockdown. So, unless you are a doctor, a healthcare worker, an emergency/fire/police services person, then you can go to work, but everyone else needs to stay at home.
In case of an emergency, what can we do?
Hospitals and medical stores will remain open and thus in an emergency you can avail of these services.
And if we do not follow the guidelines?
Anyone violating these containment measures will be liable to be proceeded against as per the provisions of Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. Depending upon the seriousness of the offence, the punishment could be from a fine of Rs 200 to imprisonment up to 2 years, or both.
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