COVID-19 lockdown: Odisha allows dhabas, garages to operate

along highways Bhubaneswar, Mar 26 (PTI) The Odisha government, besides intensifying implementation of social distancing in its fight against COVID-19, has decided that dhabas (eateries) and garages adjacent to the state and national highways will remain open during the lockdown.

This has been done to facilitate seamless movement of essential goods and keep the supply chain intact, an official said on Thursday.

People transporting goods will be able to have food and repair their vehicles if dhabas and garages are open, he explained.

The 21-day nationwide lockdown began on Wednesday.

According to the official, the state government has already issued a letter to all the district collectors and superintendents of police (SPs) in this connection.

The nationwide lockdown to combat COVID-19 is extremely critical for stopping the disease from spreading.

'However, during this period of lockdown, the provisioning of essential commodities will be very important to ensure that people remain indoors and do not panic, the letter said.

Apart from eateries and garages, auto spare part shops will also remain open to facilitate smooth movement of vehicles carrying essential goods on the state and national highways, the letter said, adding, the distance between shops on the roadside will be at least 20 km.

The government has also directed district collectors to grant permission accordingly through the civil supply officers and regional transport officers and also directed the SPs to personally ensure that there is no problem in the transportation of essential commodities.

The government in its order also made it clear that no goods vehicles carrying essential, non-essential or even empty shall be stopped by the police.

No passes are required for any goods vehicles across Odisha including Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. Highway patrolling will ensure that there is no congregation in any 'dhabas', the letter said.

All vehicles transporting goods can ply uninterruptedly for the free flow of essential items such as rice, dal, sugar, salt and vegetables in the state, the governments chief COVID-19 spokesperson, Subroto Bagchi, said.

Meanwhile, the state government requested the Centre to ensure seamless movement of goods (essential and non- essential) from one state to another during the lockdown period.

The state government has also asked all the urban local bodies to shift vegetable markets to open places to maintain social distancing among buyers.

Odishas biggest vegetable market at Unit-I in Bhubaneswar has been shifted to a ground of a local high school.

The police and other officials across the state, in a bid to ensure social distancing at grocery shops and vegetable markets, asked people to stand inside equidistant circles drawn on the roads and move towards the shops in an orderly manner.

The Commissioner of Police of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack, Dr Sudhanshu Sarangi, also encouraged people to follow the mechanism to make social distancing effective for combating the COVID-19 menace.

I have received many requests from people offering to work as volunteers. Our immediate need: Go to a nearby shop, draw circles at five feet distance from each other to make customers queue up. Take a photo with the queue, tag us & tweet. Let your good work be an infection, he tweeted.

The unique method to maintain social distancing by drawing circles near shops was followed in many areas, including Bhubaneswar, Ganjam, Balasore, Cuttack and Khurda, reports from the districts said.

In many places, shopkeepers and vendors and even common people were seen showing self-discipline by following the practice.

Meanwhile, the Odisha Police has registered as many as 149 cases in different parts of Odisha for violation of regulations and guidelines laid down for containing the spread of COVID-19 since Wednesday, a senior police officer said.

At least 37 cases have been registered for violation of nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, while five cases were slapped for flouting home quarantine rules.

Seven other cases have been registered on other issues related to COVID-19, he added. PTI AAM SKN SBN SBN