Night Curfew in Maharashtra Cities, Quarantine for Europe Returnees as New Virus Strain Raises Alarm

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday announced that night curfew will be imposed in the state's cities as a precautionary measure starting Tuesday night. The development came after the CM held a contingency meeting to discuss the new mutation of the coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom.

Night curfew from 11pm to 6am will be in place in cities from tomorrow night to January 5, lasting a total of 15 days, the state government has decided. Separate hospitals will be earmarked for those who are detected with the new strain, it was announced after Monday's meet.

Institutional quarantine of 14 days has also been mandated in Maharashtra for travellers returning from Europe and countries in Central Asia. Passengers coming to Maharashtra, the state worst-hit by Covid-19, from other countries will be home quarantined, a statement released by the state government added.

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal clarified that the curfew has been imposed to prevent people from meeting in hotels etc. Essential services will not be affected in the duration of the curfew. People travelling at night will not be stopped.

Chahal, addressing a press conference, said, "There is a difference between a night curfew and a lockdown. While in lockdown, individuals cannot step out of their homes. In a curfew, more than five people cannot assemble outside."

The Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association released a statement saying that shops in areas where night curfew has been announced will not be allowed to remain open till late in the night in view of the new restrictions. "Normally during Christmas and New Year, many big shops and most of the malls in Mumbai keep shops open till late," the statement read.

The statement further said that restrictions on the movement of party goers and tourists during the festive season is good for safety but bad for business. "Business of hotels/restaurants/shops will be majorly hit by this announcement," the statement read.

Earlier today, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the Central government is fully alert about the new strain of coronavirus reported in the UK, and stressed that "there's no need to panic".

Several countries across the globe, including India, put in place bans on incoming flights from the UK. "I confirm that we are going in for a Temporary Suspension of Flights to and from the UK from 11:59 PM on Tuesday, the 22nd of December. The passengers coming from UK have to go through RT-PCR Tests," Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said.

(Inputs from Vinaya Deshpande in Mumbai)