(Adding detail) Patna, May 24 (PTI) The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar on Monday extended COVID-induced lockdown by seven days till June 1, and asked its ministers to refrain from hitting the streets while the state was under lockdown as their tours could have an 'adverse affect on compliance of the restrictions by common citizens.
Lockdown has been in force in Bihar for nearly a month and was to be effective till Tuesday.
Regarding direction to the ministers, a communication issued by the cabinet secretariat department made it clear that restrictions on travel extended to 'all districts' including those which happened to be under a ministers 'prabhaar' (charge) or home to his or her assembly constituency.
The communication was issued as an addendum to a notification issued on Sunday whereby members of the cabinet had been reproached for undertaking tours of their constituencies or districts under their charge.
The ministers were told that if they continued with their tours during the lockdown, which has entailed severe curbs on peoples movement and vehicular traffic, 'it might have an adverse effect on efforts to ensure strict compliance of restrictions' by the common citizens.
The state has been complete lockdown since May 05 and the same has been further extended from May 26 till June 01 next.
The drastic measure was taken in the wake of a raging second wave that struck the state in the beginning of April and has since left more than four lakh people infected and claimed over 2,000 lives.
Although there has been a significant drop in the positivity rate and a commensurate increase in the rate of recovery, the government seems to be acting with abundant caution given the high density of population in Bihar and a predominantly rural demography.
According to the health department reports, the positivity rate which was more than 10 per cent in the beginnig of the month has now come down to around 3 per cent in the state.
The communications issued by the cabinet secretariat department have suggested that as an alternative to undertaking trips, the ministers could make use of facilities like 'video conferencing'.
After a tweet from the chief minister informing about extension of the lockdowm till June 1, chief secretary Tripurari Sharan and other senior officials of the state held a virtual press conference on dos and don'ts during the lockdown.
The existing restrictions like closure of schools/colleges/coaching institutes and government and private offices will remain in force, the officials said.
Essential services like hospital, police, fire services, post offices and water supply among others have been allowed.
Shops dealing in essential items have been allowed to do business for four hours from 6 am to 10 am in the urban areas and from 8 am to 12 o'clock in the rural areas.
Earlier, the chief minister chaired a virtual meeting of the crisi management group on COVID situation in the state.
The chief minister directed officials to scale up examination of samples from 1.25 lakh on an average now to 1.50 lakh daily.
Kumar emphasised on enhancing volume of vaccination.
He also ordered district magistrates to provide Rs 4 lakh ex-gratia to the families of those dying of coronavirus in the state without delay.
The state government has made arrangement of community kitchen upto block level to feed people during the corona crisis period.
Jobs are also provided to the needy, Kumar said. PTI NAC SNS SNS