Night curfews in force, schools closed as states increase curbs
A large part of India is now under restrictions not seen since the lockdown was eased last year, with night curfews, restrictions on certain businesses, closing of schools and colleges, and tight curbs on the number of people allowed to gather being imposed in at least six states where Covid-19 infections have grown.
The strictest of the measures are in Maharashtra, where authorities imposed a night and weekend curfew, ordered non-essentials businesses shut, and asked most offices to switch to remote working.
Night curfews are one of the most common non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) used in other states as well. These include districts in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Almost all non-election states have limited the number of people that can attend public events.
On Monday, there were 95,461 new cases of Covid-19 across the country. This number was lower than the 103,769 recorded a day before, but this could largely be due to a fall in testing that is typical of weekends. India is now recording the highest number of cases in a day in the world and has surpassed the first wave peak in September when the number stayed under 100,000.
Maharashtra has accounted for well over 50% of new Covid cases in the country every day over the past week, with Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and West Bengal also reporting a spurt in cases.
Unlike April of 2020, there are only few places where complete lockdowns have been announced: Durg in Chhattisgarh has imposed a nine-day lockdown that begins April 6. Earlier, a 60-hour lockdown was imposed in Maharashtra’s Wardha district, which ended on April 1. In MP’s Indore, Jabalpur and Bhopal, a 36-hour lockdown ended on March 30.
Among states that have opted for night curfews are Punjab, where 10 of 23 districts have such curbs, Rajasthan, where it applies to 10 towns including the capital Jaipur, and in three cities of Gujarat. In Chhattisgarh, 16 of 27 districts including the state capital Raipur have a night lockdown.
The curbs come at a time when officials and experts worry hospital capacity may buckle under the weight of cases. The Covid-19 resources dashboard in Pune showed there were no hospital beds available on Monday.
Dr Giridhara R Babu, an expert with the Public Health Foundation of India, said Bengaluru is on track to record 6,500 daily cases by April 20. “Even if 10 per cent of them require hospitalisation, the health system will run out of capacity in a few days. We need action now, not tomorrow. Stay home people, wear masks if going out and get a vaccine when eligible,” the epidemiologist said in a tweet.
In Delhi, where the government has ordered hospitals to keep more beds for Covid-19 patients, hospitals said the situation is concerning. “The cases are rising exponentially. The pace at which the number of cases went up this time around did not give us time to ramp up the capacity. The situation is heading towards what it was during November,” said Dr Rommel Tickoo, director of internal medicine, at Max Healthcare.
The current wave of infections has also led almost all states to close down all education institutions, including coaching centers. On Monday, students protested in Bihar’s Sasaram district against the government’s order to close down all coaching institutes.
Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have said schools will be shut indefinitely, while Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Punjab have suspended classes for a brief period.
Restrictions have also been placed on public events as most states capped the maximum number of people at weddings to 100 people and at funerals to 50. Maharashtra and Gujarat have banned all public events, while Maharashtra has also shut down restaurants and eateries for dine-in.
Unlike the previous lockdown, no state has imposed any restriction on industries or marketplaces, fearing further dent to the economy, although experts have said such steps may be unavoidable.
On almost no restrictions in Delhi, the state health minister Satyendar Jain said: “We should not see Delhi in isolation. The whole country is witnessing a massive surge in cases. Delhi has seen worse surges before.”
Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the division of epidemiology and communicable diseases in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that states, including Delhi, need to accelerate vaccination drive and scale up tests, contact tracing and containment efforts.
(With inputs from state bureaus)