Written by Tora Agarwala
, Edited by Explained Desk | Guwahati |

Updated: June 26, 2020 10:02:08 pm


A deserted Fancy Bazaar in Guwahati, Assam. The state government has announced a ‘curfew-like’ lockdown for 14 days. PTI Photo

A total lockdown will come into force in Assam’s Kamrup Metropolitan district — which includes Guwahati city — from June 28, 7 pm till July 12, 6 pm.

The new lockdown guidelines are more stringent than the earlier guidelines. In a press conference on Friday, State Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said this was a “stringent lockdown”, and “almost like a curfew.”

Why is there a new lockdown in Guwahati?

As per an order issued by the Assam Disaster Management Authority, signed by Chief Secretary, Kumar Sanjay Krishna, there is “large scale spread of Covid-19 occurring in almost the entire district of Kamrup Metropolitan, which has posed a major threat to public health, hygiene and safety of the general population.”

Out of the 10,617 samples tested in Guwahati since June 15, almost 700 (without travel history) have tested positive. “Out of 276 cases reported in Assam yesterday (Thursday), 133 are from Guwahati,” said Sarma, adding that this accounted for 48-49 per cent of the total cases. He indicated that if the rise continued in this manner, the city might run out of hospital beds, and thus the lockdown was imperative. Currently, there are 890 beds in the city.

How long is the lockdown for?

The total lockdown in Kamrup Metropolitan district will continue for 14 days. While the first seven days are stringent, the subsequent seven days may be more relaxed. Additionally, the government has ordered a 7 pm to 7 am curfew in all districts of Assam, and a “weekend lockdown” — applicable on Saturdays and Sundays —for town and municipal committees in each district.

Security personnel stand guard at a Covid-19 containment zone in Guwahati, Assam. PTI Photo

So what all will be shut?

For the first seven days everything, including grocery stores, fruit-vegetable markets. Hospitals, pharmacies and testing laboratories, will remain open.

As per the order, here is the list of prohibited activities:

* movement of individuals in public places

* all offices — government and private

* all business and commercial establishments — shops and trade activities

* all public transport as well as private vehicles

* all hospitality services

* all educational institutions

* all places of worship, including religious congregations

* all kinds of functions including social, political, sports, entertainment, academic and cultural

Apart from these, the order stated that not more than 20 people can attend funerals, spitting in public is a punishable offence and consumption and sale of liquor, paan, gutka, tobacco etc are prohibited in public.

Is anything open at all? Any exemptions?

Only a few things, considered extremely essential. These include police and administration, banks (with skeletal staff), hospitals, hotels (for quarantine purposes), print and electronic media, milk and baby food supply, water services (at specific areas and timings), among others services. Sarma said “Critical infrastructure project work will continue — for example, the Baghjan blowout tragedy plugging operations.”

As per the order, here is the list of exceptions:

* Defence, Central and State Police forces, Establishment of District Magistrate, Commissioner of Police, Home Guards, Civi; Defence, Fire & Emergency Services, Disaster Management, Electricity, Water, Sanitation, Municipal Bodies will be allowed

* hospitals and pharmacies will be open

* ten per cent of the bank branches in the district (to be determined by authorities of respective banks) with skeletal staff as well as ATMs will be allowed

* while print and electronic media as well as newspaper distribution is allowed, the order said that a ‘minimum number’ of persons should come out

* telecommunications, internet services, cable services and IT-enabled services will continue. However, only repairmen can move around, subject to prior permission

* power generation, transmission and distribution units will continue

* transport of essential goods allowed

* hotels which are accommodating quarantined persons will be open

* railway offices and person directly linked with operations of passenger and good trains will operate

* continuous process industries (like refineries) will be allowed

* identified petrol pumps will be allowed

* agriculture and tea garden activities will continue

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What about government employees/offices?

As per the order, all officers of the rank of Joint Secretary and above are to attend office at the Assam Secretariat. Other officers will be asked to attend the office on need-based instructions. In Directorates, the Directors will determine the number of skeletal officers and staff to attend for functioning of directorates. Officers and employees who are directed specifically by their controlling officer will only be allowed with documentary evidence such as permissions/orders. Rest of the government officers have to work from home.

Any restriction on passengers entering Assam?

Railways and air services will not be affected. However, people holding air/train tickets to and from Guwahati shall be allowed to move only if they produce these tickets at checkpoints. Otherwise, inter-district movement as well as inter-state movement will be prohibited, without prior permission/ pass. Also, lockdown passes issued earlier stand cancelled. Fresh permissions/passes — for special cases — have to be obtained from authorities.

Are there any precautions/further orders?

Wearing face masks is compulsory in all public places. Persons above 65, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women and children below 10 are advised to stay home.

What about the 11 wards which were under ward-wise lockdown announced on June 23?

The new order subsumes the older order directing 11 wards of Guwahati city to go under lockdown for one week. Now the new lockdown till July 12 will apply to those wards too. “In the interim, the [previously locked down] wards will open up till Sunday 7 pm so can they buy their essentials,” said Chief Secretary Krishna. As per an order from the Kamrup (M) DC, Biswajit Pegu, “restrictions imposed in the ward wise lockdown zones are relaxed from 8 am to 4 pm on 27th and 28 th June 2020.”

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Is this lockdown very stringent?

The administration will be very strict about people moving around in public places. For example, just because a person is employed in an exempted category does not mean, he/she cannot venture out. “However, there will be no problem for people with medical emergencies etc,” said Krishna.

As per the order, “the Commissioner of Police/ District Magistrate shall strictly enforce the above measures. These officers are at liberty to invoke other legal provisions to enforce the lockdown.” Any person violating these measures are liable to be booked under provisions of Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, as well as legal action under Section 188 of the IPC.

Is there any room for relaxation?

No, not for the first seven days. “The first seven days will be extremely stringent but after seven days we will consider opening up groceries, vegetable stores etc,” said Sarma.

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