Coronavirus lockdown: Are states ready for it amid rise in cases, one death?

New Delhi, March 23: As most of India has gone into lockdown amid a spike in coronavirus cases, and most states banning public transport, the flow of essential services has become a rising concern.

India has 415 coronavirus or COVID-19 cases as of Monday and eight people have died.

Many states have extended the 14-hour “Janata Curfew” or home quarantine call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday till March 31.

Essential supplies and services will be maintained, Chief Ministers have assured.

Across India, 80 districts including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru are on complete lockdown, which means only essential services will be allowed. Railways, metros and inter-state buses have been stopped and public transport has been banned in  Rajasthan, Bengal and Haryana.

While Punjab imposed un-specified curfew, Chandigarh is going to impose curfew from midnight of Tuesday.

The sudden drop in public transport and movement of vehicles saw citizens facing problems this morning while stocking up on essential goods.

In Mumbai, grocery shops were open in Malad but residents complained about vegetables in short supply.

Some medicine shops questioned how they could sell masks and sanitizers at cheaper, fixed rates if they could not buy them at lower rates.

Mumbai has banned five or more persons from public places and even in private cars. Trucks carrying essential goods will be allowed. While many residents said they had faced no major complaints in accessing food, there were some complaints that tough checks at borders had slowed down supply.

Delhi was among the first to order a complete shutdown, which has caused some confusion about the sealing of borders.

With Metros shut down, those working at petrol pumps, security agencies and medical stores in parts of Delhi like Andrews Ganj faced difficulties in getting a ride to work. They had to wait 30-45 minutes for buses; state-run buses have been reduced to a quarter on the roads.

Cab aggregators Uber and Ola have suspended their services in Delhi and its neighbourhood. While Ola has decided to keep some services running to cater to essential and emergency operations, Uber has gone off the road completely, which raised concerns about movement being crippled.

Private vehicles have also been banned. Shops selling grocery, fruit and vegetables, milk, cooking gas supplies, telecom services, home-delivery of food, banks and ATMs, hospitals and pharmacies will be open and only a quarter of public buses will run. Only people working for essential services will be allowed to use private transport, however, residents wondered how this would be enforced.

In Kerala, no shops and establishments other than those selling vegetables, fruits and essential commodities and medicines will open, and these will also function between 10 am and 7 pm.

Bengal, Haryana and Jharkhand have also banned public transport including taxis and autorickshaws barring vehicles going to and from hospitals, airports, railway station, bus terminals/ bus stands and good carrying food and essential commodities.

The Telangana government says it will provide 12 kg rice free of cost and Rs 1,500 to over 87 lakh of the poorest. However, there were complaints from Hyderabad of grocers pushing up vegetable prices.

Jammu and Kashmir is contemplating home delivery of essential goods.

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