Gangtok, March 23: Amid news of massive shutdown in the country due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Central Government along with many state governments on Sunday decided to completely lockdown around 75 districts from states that include Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala where COVID-19 outbreak has been reported. This news came after a high-level cabinet meeting that was attended by the cabinet secretary, the principal secretary to the Prime Minister and the chief secretaries of all states.
The central government has announced that the above-listed states must strictly enforce COVID-19 lockdown and that legal action would be taken against violators. This list may continue to expand depending on the gravity of the situation. In this meeting it was also decided that all train services including the metro rail services were to be suspended till March 31, goods trains are however exempted. It was announced that Inter-State bus services have also been suspended for the time being. The Supreme Court announced on Monday that in-person hearings were to stop and procedures were to be conducted through videoconferencing.
The “Janta Curfew” which was announced by the Prime Minister for Sunday was met with positive responses across the country and Sikkim was no exception. In the capital, this curfew was honoured solemnly even though a few people were seen out and about.
At 5 p.m. a deafening ringing of bells and thumping of pans could be heard across the state. The Janta curfew was to be a sort of practice or trial run of isolation for people in the event that the country goes into complete lockdown and in order to minimize the spread of the virus’s infection for at least 24 hours. Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang also released a statement through social media thanking healthcare workers, safai karamcharis and citizens for making the Janta curfew a success in the state.
The State Government has issued various notices for the past few days calling out the need for quarantine, social distancing and preventive measures, although the notice which struck out the most with people is the odd and even vehicle number one. The notice dated 22/03/2020 states:
”movement of all private vehicles, two-wheelers and taxis in the district shall be regulated by allowing only odd and even vehicles to ply on alternate days beginning from 23 March when only odd-numbered vehicles shall be allowed and on Tuesday only even number vehicles shall be allowed to ply and shall subsequently continue alternately.”
While some are supportive of the decision, there are many citizens in the state who are not satisfied. As seen on social media, commenters think that the above notice should be applied to Government vehicles also. The main concern among the citizens seems to be that if the state is worried about social distancing then a limited number of vehicles on the road is not the way to go. With limited vehicles, more people will have to carpool or share a taxi, making the preventive measure of social distancing redundant. Some also believe this is more a traffic issue than to do with the COVID-19. Which brings up the question – is Sikkim looking for a complete lockdown?
Many people believe so. As seen on the Sikkim Chronicle Facebook page, many have requested the Government in the comments section for a temporary lockdown as the best solution for the state. Many are eager for the lockdown as this would decrease the risk of infection of the coronavirus.
Since the State Government has already put a ban on the entry of tourists and vehicles from other states, a temporary lockdown could minimize the risk of a possible outbreak in the state. Commenters believe for Sikkim to remain safe, a lockdown is essential. For some, if a lockdown is to take place in the state, it should include all Government employees as well. The success of the Janta curfew on Sunday in Sikkim does say the State would have a positive response to a temporary lockdown.
Even though the State Government, has said numerous times that there is no need for panic or mass food and supplies storage, people in Sikkim who are in support of a lockdown like C.D. Sherpa have already started stocking up supplies. ”My family and I wouldn’t want to be unprepared in case of a shutdown. We have started stocking supplies, if the need for it does present itself we would rather be prepared,” says Sherpa.
At the moment coronavirus cases in India have risen to 413 cases. Sikkim hasn’t reported any cases yet.