Odisha becomes first state to extend lockdown till April 30
While the Centre is yet to decide if the lockdown - implemented to contain the coronavirus transmission - would be extended, the Odisha government has announced that the state would remain under lockdown till April 30. Trains and flights will not be operational, and schools will remain shut till June 17. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik called the pandemic the biggest threat to human race.
Earlier, the Biju Janata Dal-led government had urged the Centre to extend the lockdown, which came into force on March 25 for 21 days. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself told the politicians during an all-party meet that the restrictions will have to be prolonged, and he will speak to the Chief Ministers in this regard. A decision is expected by April 11.
In Odisha, 42 have contracted the infection and one person died. Noting how monumental the problem is, Patnaik said, "Life will not be the same ever. All of us must understand this and face it boldly together. With our sacrifice and with the blessing of Lord Jagannath, this too shall pass." He said agriculture, animal husbandry, MGNREGS activities will be allowed in the state.
On Tuesday, Odisha became the first state to make face masks mandatory when stepping out. The order, issued by the Revenue and Disaster Management Department, came into effect at 7 am today. The government explained that the highly contagious coronavirus spreads through droplets. In case a mask isn't unavailable, cloth or handkerchief (in at least two layers) must be used to cover the mouth and nose.
Following Odisha's model, states like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh also made face masks mandatory. In the Northern states, more than a dozen coronavirus hotspots were identified on Wednesday, which were completely sealed off. Parts of 15 districts, including Lucknow, Noida, and Agra, were shut completely till April 15. People's movement has been restricted, and it was promised that essential goods would be delivered.
Similarly in Delhi, 20 hotspots were identified and sealed. The hotspots include Markaz Masjid in Nizamuddin where a congregation of Tablighi Jamaat was hosted last month. The infamous event, attended by thousands from across states, turned out to be India's super-spreader. Reportedly, all new 93 cases in Delhi, reported in the last 24 hours on Wednesday, were linked to the Islamic sect.
Across India, there are 5,095 active coronavirus cases and 178 have died. It will be a few more days before India's lockdown, the largest in the world, shows results. But a lockdown seems to be the only way to deal with this pandemic. After not taking the strict decision for weeks, even countries like Singapore (whose model was being hailed) had to announce it.