The Asian Age

All internatio­nal flights stopped for a week; govt pushes ‘work from home’

Covid-19 cases up to 173 Under-10 and 65-plus must stay home

- VINEETA PANDEY with agency inputs NEW DELHI, MARCH 19

In a bid to prevent the spread of novel coronaviru­s across the country on a large scale, the government on Thursday announced stringent measures that include a travel ban, and enforcing social distancing, as the total number of positive cases touched 173. Of this, 149 are active cases, 19 cured, one migrated to another nation and four deaths. The latest death was reported from Punjab.

The government banned all scheduled internatio­nal commercial passenger flights from landing in India from Sunday, March 22, for at least one week. The MEA said these are temporary measures and asked people to stay put wherever they are. The Railways and airlines have been asked to suspend all travel concession­s, except for students, patients and those who are handicappe­d. States have also been asked to enforce “work from home” for private sector employees. However, those working in the emergency and essential services will be exempt from this. To reduce crowding in offices, all Group B and C Central employees have been asked to go to office only on alternate weeks, and there will be staggered timings for the employees.

State government­s have been asked to issue directions telling people over the age of 65 and children under 10 to strictly stay at home. However, this will not be applicable for public representa­tives, government employees and medical profession­als, among others.

The Railways cancelled 155 trains between March 20 and March 31 due to Covid-19 and low occupancy while several internatio­nal flights have been hit.

These steps, being equated near-shutdown that are with a situation,

have been taken to minimise physical contact and social mixing of people who continue to ignore government advisories. “If people travel less, there will be fewet infections,” said a senior Central official, while he denied that such steps amounted to a near “lockdown” in the country. “Lockdown is an inappropri­ate word. The situation

is evolving and steps are being taken by the government to take the community along,” said Lav Aggarwal, joint secretary in Union health ministry.

Several fresh cases were reported, including from Chhattisga­rh and Chandigarh, while most states and UTs imposed restrictio­ns, inching towards a partial shutdown, in a bid ■

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