COVID- 19: Bihar govt orders closure of all schools, colleges, coaching institutes till March 31
Bihar closed all educational institution including school, college, coaching institutes along with park, cinema hall, museum, zoo, anganwadi kendras, while deferring celebrations of Bihar Diwas and putting curbs on organising all sports and cultural programmes by cancelling their bookings at government venues, till March 31, in the wake of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The government also decided to ask its employees to report to office on alternate days, while expecting them to work from home, to avoid crowding of government offices.
The decisions were taken at a high level meeting convened by chief minister Nitish Kumar on Friday.
Terming coronavirus infection as “serious”, Bihar chief secretary Deepak Kumar said all schools and colleges, including government and private, in the state were being closed till March 31 to prevent mass gathering.
He said school authorities had also been requested to defer their internal examinations. A decision on deferment of exams conducted by the CBSE and the ICSE would, however, be taken by their respective boards, he added.
Kumar said the government was also considering invoking the Epidemic Act, 1897, but a decision would be taken by Monday. Invoking the act would allow the government to close clubs, shopping complexes and malls, while also putting an embargo on private gatherings, added Kumar while talking to this reporter on the sidelines of the presser.
The Epidemic Act, formulated during pre- independence, mainly to control plague in the late 1800s, empowers the state to take steps to prevent the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases while also giving officials overarching powers to take steps to contain the outbreak.
Kumar said the government would calculate the average cost per child on providing mid-day meal at government schools and transfer the money directly into the bank account of the beneficiary.
The government would similarly also work out the cost of providing food at anganwadi kendras and transfer the money to beneficiary account.
The chief secretary said the government had also decided to defer Bihar Diwas celebrations on March 22. Bihar Day is observed every year on March 22, marking the formation of the state of Bihar, after it was carved out from Bengal in 1912. “We will take a call later if Bihar Diwas can be celebrated in April,” he added.
Kumar said the state had intensified checking and medical screening of people coming into India from Nepal along the border. He, however, accepted that it was a big challenge to ensure screening of every single individual when the Indo-Nepal border was porous.
The chief secretary said testing facility for COVID-19 in the state that was available only at the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (RMRIMS) would also be extended to AIIMS-Patna, the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences and the Patna Medical College Hospital.
Besides, 100 more ventilators would be purchased and installed at important government medical colleges in the state.
In response to a query whether the ongoing Bihar assembly session would also be deferred, Kumar said, “The competent authority will take a decision on it.”
Though 152 people had so far been kept under observation in the state, of which 73 had completed the 14-day observation period, Bihar was yet to report any case of coronavirus.