There seems to be a lot of confusion over what services will be operational during this period, the restrictions imposed and the dos and don'ts in general during the lockdown period.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown from midnight March 24, many had lots of queries. People were confused about which services would remain operational and the general dos and dont's during this period.
To this effect, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a set of guidelines for people to follow, while also listing out a series of essential services that will continue to function.
Here are answers to some of the pertinent questions:
Why has the lockdown been imposed?
The prime minister in his address on March 24 said a nationwide lockdown is the need of the hour to break the cycle of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) and contain its spread. People are requested to stay indoors and practice 'social distancing' in order to prevent the spread. As it is, India has already reported over 500 COVID-19 cases so far.
Can you go out during the lockdown?
The government has advised everyone to stay at home and practice social distancing, requesting people to avoid all non-essential travel. People are, however, allowed to step out to purchase essential items, groceries, or to avail banking or healthcare services.
What's open and what's not
All hospitals and related medical establishments such as dispensaries, pharmacies, laboratories, clinics, nursing homes, ration and grocery shops, dairy and milk booths, shops selling meat and fish will stay open even as district authorities may encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimise the movement of people outside their homes.
Then again, banks, insurance offices, ATMs, print and electronic media offices as well as e-commerce providers have been exempted from the lockdown restrictions and will continue to operate and offer services. Fuel stations, power generation and distribution units, manufacturing units of essential commodities, fire stations, law and order services and emergency services will also be operational during the lockdown.
While hospitality services are to remain suspended, hotels and homestays where tourists and other people have been stranded due to the lockdown will remain open, along with other such establishments earmarked for quarantine facilities.
On the other hand, educational, research, training and coaching institutions, as well as places of worship, will remain closed during this period. Transport services - rail, road, and air will remain suspended, except for those involved in discharging emergency services (for instance - ambulances) or in the transportation of essential goods (say medical equipment, groceries, milk, and dairy products, etc).
What are some restrictions?
No religious congregations will be permitted during the lockdown period, without any exception. Gatherings pertaining to social, political, sports, cultural, religious or any such affairs have also been barred. However, an exception has been made in case of funerals, where a congregation of not more than 20 persons will be permitted.
Do people need to stock up on food and other essentials?
As per the government advisory, people have been asked to avoid panic buying and hoarding. PM Modi assured the country that all essential items will remain functional during the 21-day period. Leaders of various states have also reiterated this point, saying that the government will ensure an uninterrupted supply of all such commodities.
Can violators be punished or booked under any law?
As per MHA guidelines, those found in violation of the containment measures will be liable for prosecution under Sections 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) will also apply in all those cases where people are found disobeying an order promulgated by a public servant in this regard.
Irrespective of the intent, any such person will be liable for punishment which would include imprisonment or a fine or both, as the case may be.
And then there is also Section 270 of the IPC, which applies for a "malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life". Violators of the lockdown or anyone loitering on the streets could be booked under the same.
Again, those violating the rules of quarantine can also attract punishment for the same.Some states have also imposed a curfew to prevent people from venturing out, and those found to be in violation of the same could be detained by the police.
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