For the first time, it will be a Bharat Bandh against a virus!


HYDERABAD: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called upon the public for a voluntary curfew on Sunday, and people across cities and towns, including Hyderabad, are readying for a total lockdown—a comprehensive shutdown of sorts—to ward off the spread of the killer Covid-19. As a result, all shops and hotels will be shut and public life will come to a grinding halt. For the first time, it will be Bharat Bandh against a virus!

Prime Minister Modi asked people to stay home from 7 am to 9 pm on Sunday, but almost all shops and establishments, including essential services like hotels, and grocery shops, declared full day holiday. Medical shops and petrol pumps will keep open. RTC buses in both the Telugu speaking, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, will be off the roads.

Already, public life in Hyderabad and other major cities like Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada has been paralysed due to reduced traffic and dwindled business activity. Cinema halls, bars, pubs, clubs, meeting halls, temples and places of prayers are shutdown. Around 8,000 IT and software firms have declared work from home for their employees, while others cut down their operations.

The Government of India’s Department of Personnel and Training has issued an advisory to heads of department in both Central and state to follow thinning out of staff in a week. This suggests that some employees will be allowed to work from home on some days in a week, while others will rotate alternately. Sanitisation at offices will be made a must from Monday on.

Prime Minister Modi’s call for “Janata curfew” has been endorsed by both the chief ministers—K. Chandrasekhar Rao in Telangana and Y.S. Jangan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. The governments have launched massive publicity drives to encourage people to stay indoors. “At least a 14-hour lockdown will help arrest the virus for a cycle of spreading,” says an advertisement issued by Andhra Pradesh.

The chief ministers have responded positively to the Prime Minister’s proposal to encourage a “Janata curfew’ on Sunday so that the spread of Covid-19 can be halted to some extent. If necessary, more such curfews would be followed in the days to come. According to the Prime Minister, the onset of summer is not an automatic solution to stopping the spread of Covid-19 as fresh cases are on the rise in hot countries like Saudi Arabia.

Resonance of public support to the “Janata curfew” has evoked unanimity among political parties, too, shunning their usual differences while dealing with this unprecedented virus threat. PM Modi has agreed to consider Chief Minister KCR’s proposal to convert CCMB (Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology), a Hyderabad-based premier government-run laboratory, into a Covid-19 testing centre.

The Centre is expected to take a decision on this in a few days and if this happens, the CCMB would not only provide extensive services to nearby states, but also can test samples up to 600-700 per day, reducing the burden on the Pune-based government run virology centre. This will help decide treatment levels of the virus hit suspects.

After one more positive case, Telangana by Saturday has reported 20 Covid cases, while adjacent Andhra                 Pradesh has three cases. So far, three deaths were reported from Telangana, and all of them were of the persons who had returned from abroad. The government is worried over incessant cases of Covid-19 from persons who returned from abroad. Chief Minister KCR has urged the PM to stop all international flights for a fortnight.

The PM has appreciated steps taken by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan in dealing with the alarming situation. Andhra Pradesh has shut down public from major temple Tirumala, abode of Lard Balaji for an indefinite period. This has decongested Tirumala hills from around one lakh devotees per day during the summer season, a potential threat of virus outbreak.

Both the states have imposed restrictions on schools, colleges, cinema halls, pubs and other public places till 31 March, but it appears that they would be extended by another week or 10 days  in the wake of reports of fresh cases of Covid-19. The Andhra Pradesh government is mulling extending vacation to educational institutions by about a fortnight so that they can be reopened in June second week. The Telangana High Court has postponed the ongoing Class 10 examinations from Monday, responding to a petition filed some persons. Now, the government would announce a fresh time-table by Sunday and the examinations are likely to be conducted in April last week or May. “Everything depends on the situation and we are flexible,” said a higher official of Telangana education department.