State govts, Railways prepare for possible extension of Covid-19 lockdown

Topics Coronavirus | Maharashtra | Lockdown

An ambulance passes near the Central Railway Station during a nationwide lockdown, imposed in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, in Chennai. Photo: PTI
There were several indications on Saturday that the 21-day lockdown, which ends on April 14, could either be extended or only partially lifted.

“It could be extended in Mumbai and urban areas of Maharashtra by two weeks,” agencies quoted Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope as saying.

However, the minister revised his statement later in the day. He said the state government was looking at a phased lifting of the lockdown if people displayed necessary discipline in following government directives.

Within hours of announcing that it was preparing for restoration of services once the lockdown ends on April 14, the Railways on Saturday said no final decision has been taken yet on the issue. It is preparing a plan to resume some of its services, but awaiting nod from the group of ministers (GoM). After Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought suggestions from state governments on a “staggered” lifting of lockdown, chief ministers have put in place special task forces to study implementing a phased lifting of the lockdown. There were indications from some state governments that they were preparing to extend the lockdown as coronavirus (Covid-19) cases saw a spike in the last few days. Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and Tope said the lockdown would need to be extended in the state if people are not disciplined in observing social distancing and if the numbers of those infected from the virus continue to increase.

Maharashtra has one of the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the country. Haryana deputy CM Dushyant Chautala said the state had stocks of essential commodities to last three months. Budget carrier AirAsia India on Saturday said bookings for its flights will be open from April 15, but it is open to any change in case aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issues fresh directives on the issue.

While most airlines have commenced taking bookings for their flights from April 15, state-owned Air India said on Friday it has stopped bookings till April 30 and is awaiting a decision after April 14. Thackeray said during a webcast on Saturday that lifting of the lockdown post April 14 will depend on the compliance by people. On Saturday morning, PTI reported that railways is preparing to resume all its services from April 15. It quoted sources who said all railway safety personnel, running staff, guards, TTE and other officials have been told to be ready to join from April 15.

It said the railways has issued a “restoration plan” to all its zones with a schedule of trains to be run, their frequency and the availability of rakes. All 17 zones have been sent a missive to be prepared to run their respective services, the source said. Hours later, the railways clarified that no final decision has been taken yet on restoration of train services. “Train services will resume only on specific approval of each train from the Railway Board. Suggestions for phase-wise planning should be given to the board,” an official said. This decision was taken after a video conference of railway minister Piyush Goyal with chairman of Railway Board on Friday, said officials.

Trains, however, will begin operations only after receiving a green light from the government.


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