Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday decided to completely seal hotspots in 15 districts of the state till April 15 in an attempt to avoid the community spread of coronavirus.
The move came as one more person died of coronavirus in Agra on Wednesday, taking the death toll in the state to four, while the number of cases climbed by 29 to 361, according to official data. Three COVID-19 patients had earlier died in Meerut, Basti and Varanasi districts.
Speaking to News18, Chief Secretary RK Tiwari said the decision was taken due to the high load of cases reported from the hotspots.
“In an attempt to avoid the community spread of Covid-19, the state government has decided to lock down the hotspots in 15 districts. People related to health and delivery services will be allowed to operate in these hotspots. Also 100% home delivery of essential items will be ensured,” he said.
"All coronavirus hotspots in 15 districts will be completely sealed till April 15 morning. Only home delivery will be allowed. These are places where a number of cases have been found," said Director of Information Shishir.
The districts where hotspots are identified and will be sealed are Lucknow, Meerut, Shamli, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Varanasi, Sitapur, Agra, Kanpur, Bareilly, Saharanpur, Firozabad, Basti, Bulandshehar and Maharajganj. Many hotspots in these districts have already been sealed off by various district administrations.
The restrictions in these pockets will be stricter than those under the lockdown already in place.
Unlike in the lockdown so far, people will not be allowed to go out to buy groceries. Officials said the administration will ensure doorstep delivery of items like vegetables and milk in these clusters.
Passes issued to allow essential movement are cancelled in these hotspots which will remain "sealed" up to the morning of April 15, when the current three-week nationwide lockdown is scheduled to end.
In addition to the creation of these containment zones, the government said it is doubling testing for coronavirus -- about 1,500 tests will now be conducted in the state every day -- and will make wearing face covers mandatory for those moving out of their homes.
The identified hotspots include 22 clusters in Agra, 13 in Ghaziabad, 12 each in Gautam Buddh Nagar and Kanpur, seven in Meerut and four each in Varanasi, Sahanaranpur and Maharajganj.
There are three hotspots in Shamli, Bulandshahr, Basti and Firozabad, and one each in Bareilly and Sitapur. State capital Lucknow has eight major and four minor coronavirus clusters.
Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi urged people not to panic.
"Only the hotspots will be sealed off and not the entire district," he clarified, adding that in other areas the lockdown will be in place as before.
The clusters were identified during a video conference with district magistrates and superintendents of police, Director General of Police Hitesh Chandra Awasthi said.
The DGP, who attended the video conference with the district officials, said they have been asked to ensure 100% lockdown in these clusters.
"Enhanced sanitation drives, doorstep delivery and restricting movement of people by setting up barricades will be undertaken in these areas," he said. "The passes issued to people for the lockdown period are also being suspended."
Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Awasthi said loudspeaker-fitted vehicles will be deployed to convey messages in these areas. Fire tenders will be used for sanitisation.
"Drones will be used, if required," he said, adding media will not be allowed in the sealed-off areas. "Only medical vehicles will be allowed and nobody will be allowed to perform any other activity."
(With inputs from PTI)