Amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and reports suggesting that outbreak might peak in June, Odisha on Monday announced weekend shutdown for the month in 11 districts of the state, anticipating that people might venture out in large numbers as the Centre has eased lockdown curbs.
The state government has also prohibited all sorts of public congregations across the state till month-end, Chief Secretary AK Tripathy said.
"Educational institutions, including schools, colleges, coaching centres, will remain closed till the end of July, while places of worship will be shut for devotees up to June 30. Similarly, shopping malls, cinema halls, swimming pools and gyms will also remain closed till June-end, he said.
Hotels, however, will be allowed to reopen with just 30 per cent occupancy, but their restaurants will be operating only for in-house requirements, the chief secretary said.
The two-day shutdown would be implemented in Bolangir, Nayagarh and nine coastal districts, including Khurda, Cuttack, Puri, Kendrapara and Balasore, in view of "high-case load" in these places, he said.
"The Saturday-Sunday shutdown will be imposed on districts that have witnessed a surge in coronavirus cases, following the return of migrant labourers from other states. All activities will remain suspended on these two days, barring supply of essential services," Tripathy said.
Insisting that the number of COVID-19 cases has surged following relaxations in travel norms, he said the spike could be mainly attributed to the migrants who have recently returned to the state from other parts of the country.
Of the 2,104 COVID-19 cases detected in the state so far, as many as 1,674 positive cases have been reported from these 11 vulnerable districts.
"Over 4.26 lakh migrants have returned to the state since May 3 and many more are expected to come home in the days ahead," the chief secretary said.
Around 95 per cent of the fresh cases have been reported from quarantine centres in various parts of the state, where the returnees are lodged, he said.
At present, a total of 2,49,760 people are staying at these isolation centres, while 2.78 lakh have been discharged having completed the mandatory institutional quarantine.
Emphasising that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has described June as an "extremely critical period" in fight against the pandemic, Tripathy said the state has imposed stricter norms to effectively contain the spread of COVID-19.
"The government will strictly enforce all guidelines, and levy heavy fines for violating the norms. It has increased the penalty for spitting in public and not wearing masks from Rs 200 to Rs 500 for the first two instances. Thereafter, the fine will shoot up to Rs 1,000," he explained.
Outdoor activities have been banned for the month for people with comorbid conditions, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years, he said.
DGP Abhay said night curfew, though relaxed by the Centre, will be strictly implemented in Odisha from 7pm to 7am every day, in accordance with the guidelines framed by the state government.
Noting that police have so far registered over 14,000 cases for violating lockdown norms, the DGP said the offenders will be booked in the future too, and arrests will also be made, if needed, as per the disaster management and epidemic laws.