BANGALORE - Several cities across India have announced lockdowns again to control spikes in the number of people infected with Covid-19.
India has recorded more than 907,000 Covid-19 cases and almost 24,000 deaths since it reported its first case in January, despite a two-month nationwide lockdown from March 24. This makes it the country with the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, after the United States and Brazil.
The federal government began easing restrictions in June and has focused since then on making guidelines for testing and treatment while letting India’s diverse state governments handle the day-to-day management of infections and economy as they see fit.
As the number of infections rises, different states have reimposed a lockdown in densely populated cities.
Bangalore in southern India goes on a strict week-long lockdown from Tuesday night (July 14) as it records more than 1,300 cases a day. During the easing of restrictions in June, the tech city and adjacent rural areas saw infections triple in number as many residents threw caution to the wind.
This round, Bangalore’s private and public transport, including app-based taxis and autorickshaws, will be shut down until July 22. Only scheduled flights and trains can operate. Grocery and vegetable shops can open from 5am to noon, and pharmacies all day, but wholesale markets and malls will be closed again. Home deliveries will be allowed but most government and private offices will close, except for operators of essential services like banks and post offices, with limited manpower.
Unlike the previous lockdown, no movement passes will be issued this time around, except for medical professionals and officials engaged in Covid-19 relief work. A full Sunday lockdown in place since June will continue across the state.
Karnataka’s Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa, who is himself under home quarantine after three of his personal staff tested positive for the coronavirus, said these strict guidelines were issued to “control the number of cases and for officials to take steps to address shortfalls of hospital beds”.
In Maharashtra, India’s worst-affected state with more than 254,000 infections, Pune city has been under a stringent 10-day lockdown that started on Monday. The education hub has the highest number of cases in the state.
Pune’s lockdown will occur in two phases. In the first five days till July 18, there is a “very strict” shutdown to break the chain, with even grocery stores, vegetable and meat markets closed, buses and taxis suspended and online food deliveries barred. All offices will be closed.
From July 19, shops can open from 8am to noon and e-commerce deliveries can resume. But parks, playgrounds and private offices will remain closed, and private vehicles cannot ply except for those providing essential services. Banks can open with a minimum of staff.
Thiruvananthapuram, a city with a total of more than 740 Covid-19 cases, the highest in the southern state of Kerala, extended its lockdown imposed on July 6 until July 20. The new restrictions came after a large number of cases from unknown sources created multiple clusters in the city.
Thousands of expats returning every day, especially those from the Middle East, has shaved a bit off Kerala’s head start in controlling the pandemic. Kerala has reported more than 8,300 infections, most of them recorded since mid-June.
Thiruvananthapuram has stopped all construction activities except for those related to hospital infrastructure and highways. Grocery shops open briefly, and only essential staff in infotech parks and banks are allowed. Taxis and autorickshaws can operate with the mandated social distancing protocol.
The northern state of Bihar, which crossed 16,000 Covid-19 infections, announced a seven-day lockdown in 11 districts after it saw its highest-ever spike of 1,266 cases on Sunday. This includes the capital Patna that has already been under strict restrictions since July 10. All except essential services are suspended.
Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh all extended lockdowns in their capital cities.