India lockdown diary, Day 5: Centre orders closure of state borders, 14-day quarantine for migrants, PMO sets up high-level panels

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Migrants sitting atop a bus as they leave from Lucknow. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastava)

As the national coronavirus lockdown entered its fifth day on Sunday, the COVID-19 death toll touched 27 while the confirmed positive cases touched 1000 mark, with the Centre and government grappling with the huge exodus of migrants to native villages.

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his 'Mann ki Baat' programme, sought the nation's forgiveness for the inconvenience caused by an unprecedented lockdown, the Centre asked state governments and Union Territory administrations to effectively seal borders to stop the movement of migrant workers, who will be put in mandatory 14-days quarantine for violating the lockdown.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) also constituted 10 different high-level committees to suggest measures to ramp up healthcare, put the economy back on track and reduce misery of people as quickly as possible.

Here is how the states and UTs in the country are dealing with the outbreak:

Delhi/NCR

Hours after the Centre asked state governments to ensure there is no movement of people across states, the Delhi Police began closing arterial roads in the city, especially those leading to the border areas, and turned back migrant workers travelling by foot.

Police personnel have been asked to be polite with them and also take legal action if someone violates Section 144 of CrPC. The Home Ministry today announced that directions were issued to state administrations to seal district and state borders immediately.

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All migrant labourers who travelled during the lockdown period will be placed under 14-day quarantine across government centres. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday appealed to migrant workers not to leave for their native places during the 21-day nationwide lockdown in the interest of the country. "I assure you that the Delhi government has made sufficient arrangements for your food and accommodation. For now, do not go to your villages in the country's interest," the CM tweeted.

"I appeal to all of you (migrant workers) not to go to your villages. Stay wherever you are, because in large gatherings, you are also at risk of being infected with the coronavirus. The coronavirus will reach your villages and families through you and it will then spread across the country," Kejriwal said.

Meanwhile, four more people tested positive for the coronavirus in Noida, taking the total cases in Gautam Buddh Nagar to 31.

Migrants boarding a food truck on their way from Gurugram on Sunday. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

Punjab

To address the problem of migrant labourers and prevent their exodus from the state amid the COVID-19 crisis, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has asked all industrial units and brick kilns in the state to commence operations with such migrants if they have adequate provisions to accommodate them safely within the premises.

The Chief Minister said this would be beneficial for both the industry/brick kiln owners as well as the labourers who had lost their employment and livelihood in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown, and had been left to fend for themselves.

Captain Amarinder Singh said his government was also in discussion with Radha Soami Satsang Beas, which has already offered its bhawans as quarantine facilities, to allow migrant labourers to stay there as these people would be required for wheat harvesting in two weeks' time.

Maharashtra

In Maharashtra's Buldhana, a 45-year-old man died due to the coronavirus today. With this, the death toll in the state rose to 8. Meanwhile, the total number of positive cases has touched 196 — 107 in Mumbai and Thane, Pune (37), Nagpur (13), Ahmednagar (3), Ratnagiri (1), Aurangabad (1), Yavatmal (3), Miraj (25), Satara (2), Sindhudurg (1), Kolhapur (1), Jalgaon (1), Buldhana (1), health minister Rajesh Tope said, however, the health ministry has not updated the figures on the website.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray assured that his government would take care of all migrant labourers and provide them basic necessities like food and water. In a webcast, he said the 'Shiv Bhojan' scheme offering meal at Rs 10 will now be available at Rs 5 from April 1.

Pune' APMC started functioning on Sunday with Pune police enforcing social distancing. (Express Photo by Pavan Khengre)

Thackeray said the state had already set up 163 centres across the state to provide food and water to the migrant labourers. "The state will protect them and provide food, but they should not leave their place. I understand that they are anxious but they should not leave. They should avoid increasing the risk of infection," he said.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said there were no cases of community transmission of the novel coronavirus in the state and all COVID-19 patients here were those who had come from abroad or the ones who had come in contact with infected persons.

Coronavirus India update March 29

Meanwhile, 11 people, including a COVID-19 patient and two newly married couples, were booked for allegedly flouting quarantine norms and holding marriage functions despite prohibitory orders in view of the coronavirus crisis, police told PTI.

In the first case, a person, who arrived in Dombivali township on Thane from Turkey on March 15, allegedly violated the home quarantine guidelines and attended the 'haldi' function (a pre-wedding custom) of his cousin brother, police said. The person later tested positive for coronavirus, Dombivali police station's inspector S P Aher said.

In the second, five persons, including a groom, his parents and the owner of a ground, have been booked under IPC Section 188 for organising the 'haldi' ceremony here on March 18, in violation of the prohibitory orders imposed by the district collector, the police said.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath interacts with the migrants on state border on Sunday. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastava)

From South

Kerala recorded 20 new positive cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, taking the number of infected to 202. At present, 181 persons are under treatment in isolation at hospitals across state. 21 others have been discharged after recovery.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the action of Karnataka police in blocking a key state highway ferrying essential commodities to the state and urged him to immediately intervene in the matter.

In a letter to Modi, the Chief Minister pointed out that the Thalassery-Coorg State Highway 30, connecting Kerala with Coorg in Karnataka via Veerajapetta, was a key highway on which cargo lorries ferry essential commodities to Kerala.

Meanwhile, five people with an alleged history of alcohol addiction have committed suicide — five days into the lockdown in Kerala — and reports point to the health woes of alcohol addicts building up into a major concern on the sidelines of the battle against COVID-19 across the state.

Reports of suicide attempts by two alcohol addicts emerged in Malappuram on Saturday besides a sudden increase in the number of admissions at de-addiction centres and mental health units at government hospitals.

West Bengal

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday expressed her gratitude to all doctors, nurses, policemen, sanitation workers and others who have been working hard to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Taking to Twitter, Banerjee said, "I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude & appreciation for all the Doctors, Nurses, Paramedical Staff, Police Personnel, Govt. Officials, Emergency Response Personnel, Sanitation Workers & Volunteers who have come forward in this hour of need to fight the COVID-19."

Howrah station area bears a deserted look on Sunday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

Meanwhile, the sweet vendors in the state are staring at huge losses as they say the milk procured by them is getting wasted as their are no workers besides their employees being rendered jobless. They have urged the state authorities to grant them permission to run their businesses, even if not at full throttle.

West Bengal has reported 18 COVID-19 cases so far. One of them died at a city hospital on March 23.

North-East

On the sixth day of lockdown in Tripura, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb Sunday appealed businessmen, brick kiln owners, tea garden owners and government employees to donate food, rice, pulses and ration to the under-privileged while the country battles novel coronavirus. He also wrote to Chief Ministers of Assam, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Delhi, requesting to arrange for food, accomodation, security and health services of anyone from Tripura who might be stranded in those states during lockdown.

J&K

A 65-year-old man who had tested positive for the coronavirus died at a hospital on Sunday, taking the death toll due to COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir to two, officials said. The man, hailing from the Tangmarg area in Baramulla district, had tested positive for the coronavirus at SMHS hospital on Saturday where he was undergoing treatment, they said.

A security person stands guard at Jammu & Kashmir National Highway, during day-3 of a nationwide lockdown imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, in Jammu. (PTI Photo)

Director General of Jammu and Kashmir police Dilbag Singh said 337 FIRs have been registered and 627 persons arrested for violating prohibitory orders in the Union Territory amid the coronavirus outbreak. He said 118 shops and 490 vehicles were seized for defying the government orders.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has ordered a shutdown of all establishments, except those providing essential services and commodities, on March 22 to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Other parts of the country

More than 60 prisoners at an open jail in Jaipur's Sanganer are helping in the packaging of hand sanitiser being manufactured at a facility in the jail. While representatives of a private company make the solution at the factory, the convicts label and package the product.

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