BHUBANESWAR: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday announced a lockdown in 40 per cent of Odisha including five districts, seven major towns and the capital city Bhubaneswar as the fight to contain COVID-19 enters a decisive stage. The lockdown will be effective from 7 am on Sunday to 9 pm on March 29.
The districts which will observe a complete lockdown are Khurdha, Cuttack, Ganjam, Kendrapada and Angul. Similarly, Puri, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Balasore, Jajpur Road, Jajpur Town and Bhadrak will be totally shut down.
All distribution of benefits such as pension and PDS will be postponed for the time being in the five districts and eight towns. However, flights, trains, buses, other public transport and essential services are exempted from the lockdown. Announcing the decision, the Chief Minister said, “The time has come for us to take extraordinary steps and sacrifices to protect our state and our people.”
Odisha is the first state in the country to have taken the extreme step in nearly 40 per cent of its area. The lockdown has been announced in districts and towns to which more than 70 per cent of the total foreign returnees belong to. More than 3000 people have returned from foreign countries to Odisha so far after the
coronavirus outbreak. All those who have returned from foreign countries have been advised home quarantine.
The Chief Minister maintained that hospitals, clinics, medical shops, grocery shops, restaurants (only takeaways and home deliveries), vegetables, meat and milk shops will be open. Bread and bakery products can be sold, but selling of tea and other beverages in the same premises will have to be closed.
The administration, police, health institutions, fire and Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) offices, electricity, water and municipal services, banks, ATMs, petrol pumps will remain open along with private establishments which support these basic services or are linked to the fight against the coronavirus, he said.
The Chief Minister said that district collectors have been empowered to add or delete any sector/service to the list based on local assessment. He advised private companies to encourage work from home. However, in case they cannot do so and need to continue, they are required to get a certificate from the district collector, he said, adding that all service providers including those in the private sector engaged in COVID-19 related work will be declared emergency workers. He said we should pay the wages of people who have worked with us for long even though we have to discontinue their services temporarily.
The Chief Minister said it is the duty of the community, specifically sarpanches, elected representatives and other community leaders, to keep a close watch and monitor the lockdown. “These are extraordinary times and we all have to pitch in. The police cannot enforce this everywhere,” he said, warning that the administration will take tough action on anyone violating the lockdown and risking their lives or those of their family members and the people of Odisha. He appealed to the people to stay at home. “If you go out, you risk bringing the virus to your family,” he said.