The Union Home Ministry Tuesday issued strict guidelines for the enforcement of 21-day complete nationwide lockdown from Wednesday in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, invoking the National Disaster Management Act which may result in imprisonment of up to two years for any violation.
The guidelines listed several services including government and private offices that will be out of bounds during the period, while exempting establishments such as hospitals, ration shops, dairies, banks, insurance offices, print and electronic media.
Delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment through e-commerce has also been exempted from the purview of the lockdown, it said.
The guidelines came within minutes of an address to the Nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which he announced the lockdown and asserted that social distancing is the only way out for the country in its decisive battle against the coronavirus.
The home ministry issued the exhaustive guidelines invoking Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.
The violations under these sections may invite fine and a jail term extending up to two years.
District Magistrates shall deploy Executive Magistrates as incident commander to oversee overall implementation of these measures, the guidelines said.
The ministry said all government offices -- Central, state and UTs -- autonomous institutions, public corporations, commercial, private, industrial establishments will be closed.
However, Defence, Central Armed Police Forces, treasury, public utilities including petroleum, CNG, LPG, PNG, disaster management, post offices, National Informatics Centre, power, early warning agencies, state police, home guards, fire and emergency services, district administration and treasury, electricity, water, sanitation, and Municipal bodies (only staff required for essential services) have been exempted, it said.
Commercial and private establishments shall be closed down but shops, including ration shops (under PDS) dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables. dairy and milk booths, meat and fish and animal fodder have been exempted from the lockdown.
"Wherever exceptions to above containment measures have been allowed, the organisations/employers must ensure necessary precautions against COVlD-19," it said,
All efforts will be made for mobilisation of resources, workers and material for augmentation and expansion of hospital infrastructure without any hindrance.
"Hospitals and all related medical establishments including their manufacturing and distribution units both in public and private sector such as dispensaries, chemist and medical equipment shops, labs, clinics, nursing homes, ambulance etc. will continue to remain functional. The transportation for all medical personnel, nurses, paramedical staff, other hospital support services be permitted," it said.
All transport services -- air, rail and roadways -- shall remain suspended except those for transportation of essential goods, fire, law and order and emergency services.
"In case of funerals, congregations of not more than 20 persons will be permitted," it said.
Hospitality services and educational institutions will remain suspended. However, hotels, homestays, lodges and motels which are accommodating tourists and people stranded due to the lockdown, medical and emergency staff, air and sea crew and those used for quarantine purpose have been exempted, it said.
Telecommunications, internet services, broadcasting and cable services, IT and IT-enabled Services only (for essential services) will work from home as far as possible.
Capital and debt market services as notified by the Securities and Exchange Board of India, cold storage and warehousing services and private security services have also been exempted, it said.
Industrial Establishments will remain closed except manufacturing units of essential commodities, production units which require continuous process, after obtaining required permission from the state government, it said.
All educational, training. research. coaching institutions etc. shall remain closed, places of worship shall remain closed. No religious congregations will be permitted, without any exception.
"All social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions gatherings shall be barred," it said.
COVID-19 has claimed 10 lives in the country.
Soon after the announcement, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister PK Mishra, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla held a video conference with Chief Secretaries of all states and asked them to ensure the strict compliance of the lockdown.
Mishra mentioned that the present situation is unique and in case people do not maintain distance there are chances of multiplying infection even if a few people assemble.
The present situation is not like an ordinary case of law and order, so this is the right time to take stringent action, he added.
The Cabinet Secretary mentioned that inconvenience to the citizens is to be minimised and people are to be sensitised about the exemptions.
The supply of readymade and cooked food is to be ensured and as far as possible, home deliveries should be facilitated, he added.