With Tamil Nadu witnessing a sharp increase in the COVID-19 cases, the government on Saturday announced a two-week 'total lockdown' across the state to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Chief Minister MK Stalin said in a statement that the lockdown was being enforced due to 'unavoidable reasons' and pointed out that the decision was taken based on inputs received at a review meeting he had with district collectors on Friday, besides consultations with medical experts.
The recommendations made by the Union Home and Health ministries had also been factored in.
"The total lockdown will be enforced from 4 am on 10 May to 4 am on 24 May to further intensify the efforts to curb the spread of the disease," he said.
Earlier, Stalin announced relaxing existing restrictions on business hours for shops on Saturday and Sunday, when a full day-long lockdown is supposed to be in effect, allowing them to remain open till 9 pm to aid people since stricter curbs would kick in from 10 May.
Stalin also urged people to follow the COVID-19 protocols and extend cooperation to the government's pandemic prevention activities.
Stalin said 23 districts in the state had a positivity rate of 10 percent. Meanwhile, in a video uploaded on his official Twitter handle, the chief minister explained the need to go for the stricter restriction, saying neighbouring Kerala and Karnataka have already undergone complet lockdown.
"The situation in northern and neighbouring states is scary. Though Tamil Nadu is not so bad but in over 10 districts the virus is spreading fast, with 25,000 new infections daily (across the state). Doctors say that in two weeks this will go up further."
"It will then become a big challenge for the medical sector to control the pandemic. They have risked their lives. Yesterday, I held discussions with officials who say that another lockdown is necessary to curb the spread," he said.
Stalin said the pandemic cannot be curbed without breaking the chain for which the 10-24 May lockdown was being enforced. "It is true poor people's livelihood will be affected due to this. If there was no lockdown it would become a difficult task to control coronavirus. Realising this, Kerala and Karnataka have implemented lockdown," he said and sought public support to check the spread of the contagion.
He assured people that the government's efforts to check the spread have "picked up pace from today."
During the lockdown, all shops and commercial establishments including malls and big format stores selling anything other than groceries, vegetables, meat and foods products will remain shut, News18 reported. Here is a complete list of what's allowed and what's not:
Food, liquor stores, eateries and online delivery services
Food delivery services such as Swiggy and Zomato can pick up orders between 6-10 am during the day, for three hours after noon and between 6-9 pm through the day. Restaurants and eateries and tea shops will be completely shut for visitors.
Standalone shops selling vegetables, groceries, provision items, fish and meat products can remain open till 12 noon with only fifty percent customers. E-commerce firms distributing these can do so till noon, he added. "Other than the aforementioned shops, no other establishments can run," during the lockdown, Stalin said.
The state-run liquor outlets operated by Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC), all bars, spas, gyms, beauty parlours, salons, auditoria, cinema theatres, recreation clubs and amusement and zoological parks will be shut during this period.
There shall be no dine-in services in hotels and tea shops and the former can sell takeaways in staggered working hours through the day. Tea stalls have to down shutters by noon.
State-run Amma Canteens will remain open, platform vendors selling vegetables and flowers can do so till 12 pm and fair price shops will work from 8 am to 12 noon, he said.
Offices, educational institutions, etc
Government offices, other than important ones such as those inside the Secretariat and involved in essential services including health, revenue, police, fire and rescue services and disaster management, will remain closed.
All private offices and companies and IT and ITES firms shall also remain closed and employees can work from home.
Those allowed to work during the lockdown period include media, courier firms, hospitals and related services,fuel outlets, continuous process industries, data centers,and telecom services, he said.
School colleges and other educational institutions, places of worship, parks, recreation clubs, zoological parks and sport academies are to remain shut.
Recreational and religious activities
Beaches and tourist attractions in the hilly locations of Udhagamandalam and Kodaikanal will be out of bounds for people.
Existing restrictions regarding places of worship, cap on attendees in wedding and death-related events will continue while educational institutions will remain closed.
Inter and intra-district public and private bus services will be suspended while hire taxis and autorickshaws cannotply.
Those travelling for essential work like wedding, death, interview or exams shall produce proof to be allowed permission to proceed, the chief minister added.
Tamil Nadu saw 26,465 new coronavirus cases on Friday, pushing the caseload to 13.23 lakh while a record 197 deaths in the last 24 hours took the toll to 15,171. According to the health department, the active cases stood at 1,35,355.
With inputs from PTI