States enforce coronavirus lockdown norms, stay home or face a prison term

The number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in India crossed 500 and the death toll rose to 10 as more regions came under the shadow of the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen, prompting the government to scale up its response by announcing a complete nationwide lockdown on Tuesday, even as hundreds were booked for violating restrictions.

A 65-year-old Covid-19 patient, who recently returned from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), died in Mumbai, taking the number of deaths in Maharashtra to three. Across India, the case count went up to 536, with 10fresh cases on Tuesday.

Before India’s complete lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday evening, state governments warned those violating partial restrictions that they would be jailed for up to two years and their vehicles would be confiscated if they didn’t stay indoors.

Hundreds of people were booked across the country for violating states’ lockdowns, with many being told to do sit-ups and squats on roads and some being cane-charged. There were also arrests for spreading rumours about Covid-19.

In Jharkhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana, violators could be seen with posters stuck on their bodies that said “they were enemies of society and did not stay at home”.

In Kanpur, the police made several violators stand with their hands raised for over 30 minutes.

Earlier in the day, the Centre asked the states and Union territories to clamp curfew wherever necessary in the wake of people defying lockdown orders.

Thirty-two states and Union territories have announced complete lockdowns till March 31 to deal with the pandemic. About three quarters of the country was under lockdown till Tuesday before the Prime Minister announced that the country was going into a complete lockdown for 21 days.

The 65-year-old who died of Covid-19 had returned from the UAE to Ahmedabad. He complained of fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said. He was brought to the Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai on March 20 for treatment, but his condition deteriorated. He had pre-existing ailments, including high blood pressure and diabetes, the statement said.

The earlier nine deaths have been recorded in Maharashtra (2), Bihar, Karnataka, Delhi, Gujarat and Punjab, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh.

According to latest data of the Union health ministry, the total number of Covid-19 cases is 536. Thirty-seven people have recovered, as per the official data.

As cases of the viral infection surge, authorities have banned gatherings and suspended road, rail and air traffic in unprecedented steps till March 31.

Top officials of the central government spoke to chief ministers on Tuesday and told them that large gatherings could lead to an escalation of the crisis.

Police enforced lockdowns across large parts of India as health officials warned that the coronavirus was slowly spreading from big cities to small towns.

Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said those violating the lockdown in the state will be booked for offences leading to jail term between six months and two years.

The Punjab government announced jail term of up to one year and a fine for violating curfew conditions. The Chandigarh administration will detain all those who venture out of their homes without a valid reason. It also issued orders to convert a cricket stadium in Sector 16 and the Manimajra sports complex into temporary jails for violators.

State governments in Odisha, Punjab and Rajasthan have also started initiating action against those ostracising people who are in quarantine. People who have recent travel history for affected countries like Italy, the US and China have been put in mandatory home isolation or at government-run quarantine facilities.

“We have put up quarantine slips clearly stating that people will be booked for ostracization,” said an order issued by the Odisha government, which also warned against spreading rumours about Covid-19. Similar orders were also issued by state governments of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Karnataka.

In Uttar Pradesh, the police registered at least 350 FIRs, issued about 5,000 fines and seized about 250 vehicles in 17 districts where the lockdown was announced on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, the lockdown was extended to all 75 districts.

The police used public address systems to ask people to stay at home . In Gujarat, 426 people were detained for flouting quarantine norms and another 238 people were booked for violating lockdown, said Gujarat director general of police Shivanand Jha.

In Rajasthan, the police booked 148 people for spreading Covid-19 rumours and another 28 for violating the lockdown.

“It is the need of the hour that all the people who are either in home or facility quarantine, need to maintain strict vigil, and practise social distancing, and personal hygiene. Special care needs to be taken of the elderly, pregnant women and children,” Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said.

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