In a bid to break the chain of the COVID-19 infection in the state, the Odisha government on Thursday announced a weekend shutdown in 10 districts bordering Chhattisgarh where the number of active coronavirus cases crossed the one lakh mark, an official said. The restriction will be imposed in Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Bolangir, Nabarngpur, Koraput and Malkangiri from Saturday, Chief Secretary S C Mohapatra said.
The government also extended night curfew to all urban areas of the state from the 10 western Odisha districts implemented on April 5. Despite stringent measures taken by the state government, the number of coronavirus cases has increased in the 10 districts in the last two weeks, and a surge in COVID infections has also been witnessed in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and other urban areas during the period, the chief secretary said.
"The government has decided to impose night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am in urban areas in 20 other districts, where no such restriction is in place at present," he said. Timing for the night curfew in the 10 districts, where the restriction is already in place, has been extended by three hours.
Instead of 10 pm to 6 am, these districts, both in urban and rural areas, will have night curfews from 6 pm to 5 am from Saturday, the official said. "There will be no such restriction at night in rural areas of the 20 other districts," he added.
Mohapatra said essential services, including water supply and healthcare, will be exempted from the purview of night curfew. No passes will be issued but workers and employees involved in the delivery of emergency services need to carry their identity cards while travelling during the restricted hours at night.
The curbs will be in place to restrict the movement of people, not commercial vehicles, Mohapatra said. The government has already suspended bus services from Odisha to Chhattisgarh and will start cancelling permission for all inter-state services from April 19, the official said.
The fresh restrictions will help check the spread of the disease, the chief secretary said, adding that the government has already announced the postponement of all board examinations. He urged people to follow COVID protocols and maintain social distancing norms in public places.
Meanwhile, the state government has appointed 21 senior IAS officers as COVID observers in several districts to help contain the spread of the disease. These moves were announced by the government at a time when Odisha's COVID-19 caseload jumped to 3,58,342 on Thursday after 2,989 people tested positive, the biggest single-day spike this year.
Two more fatalities pushed the death toll to 1,935, a health department official said. During a meeting with district authorities, Mohapatra reviewed the COVID situation across the state and directed all the collectors to increase the number of rapid response teams to expedite monitoring exercise for home isolation cases.
Health and Family Welfare Additional Chief Secretary P K Mohapatra also directed district authorities to follow the standard operating procedure strictly for referral of COVID patients. He also asked district collectors to engage the PRI (panchayati raj) institutions actively to contain the spread of the infections.
During an ongoing special drive for enforcement of COVID protocols, a sum of Rs 2.43 crore was collected as a fine from 83,391 violators, Director General of Police Abhaya said. The enforcement measures will be further intensified in the coming days, he said.