A day after the Patna high court slammed the Bihar government for its poor handling of the second wave of the pandemic and sought to know whether it was enforcing lockdown or not, the administration on Tuesday announced imposition of lockdown from May 5 to May 15.
The decision was made at the meeting of the Crisis Management Group presided over by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The Patna high court had on Monday asked Advocate General Lalit Kishore to talk to the chief minister on the urgent need of the lockdown.
When contacted, Kishore told PTI he has intimated the high court about declaration of the lockdown to check the spread of the virus.
The state saw 10 per cent positivity rate in last one week.
The lockdown decision was welcomed by the political parties, but the main opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal attacked the government claiming it was made after the infection has spread in villages.
Soon after the crisis management group meeting, the CM announced the decision, following which Chief Secretary Tripurari Sharan along with senior police and administration officers held a press conference to announce the modalities.
The chief secretary said that all government and private offices will remain closed during the period, except essential services such as civil defence, electricity and water supply, hospitals, and fire services.
Principal Secretary of Health, Pratyaya Amrit, said that the vaccination drive will continue during the lockdown.
Banking, ATMs and insurance services have been kept out of the purview of the lockdown. Industrial and construction work, besides farm activities, e-commerce and courier services have also been exempted.
Operations of print and electronic media have also been allowed during the period.
Petrol pumps, LPG and outlets connected with retail services of petroleum products will also continue to operate.
Shops dealing in grocery and food items will remain open from 7 am to 11 am daily during the lockdown, the chief secretary said.
Schools, colleges and private coaching centres will remain completely shut during the lockdown, Sharan said, adding that no examination will be held during the period.
Religious places, cinema halls, parks, gyms will also remain closed.
Though the movement of vehicles has been prohibited, public transport for passengers heading to railway stations, airports, and bus terminuses will be allowed with 50 per cent sitting capacity, the chief secretary said.
Restaurants and hotels will remain closed but home delivery has been allowed, he said.
Weddings are allowed with only 50 guests but the use of DJs and taking out 'barat' processions are prohibited.
The chief secretary said an advance notice of three days has to be given to the local police station about weddings.
For the performance of the last rites and 'shraaddh', not more than 20 people will be allowed.
The CS informed that all the districts have been ordered to organise community kitchens to feed the needy.
He said the ration card holders will be given allotted foodgrain from PDS shops free in the month of May, the cost of which will be borne by the state government.
He said those violating the orders will be punished according to law.
Bihar reported 14794 new COVID-19 cases and 105 more deaths on Tuesday.
Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Chaitanya Prasad said that Nitish Kumar held a detailed discussion with deputy chief ministers Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi, and Health Minister Mangal Pandey, among others on Monday night.
The chief minister also crisscrossed the state capital for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation, he said.
The health secretary said the state witnessed 10 per cent positivity rate over the last one week and the department will monitor whether this is coming down during the lockdown.
He said the state government will launch a mass recruitment drive for hiring medicos and will conduct walk-in interviews to add to the strength of the doctors and paramedical staff.
Regarding the availability of medical oxygen, Amrit said the state is procuring them from other states and the Centre has also assured to provide sufficient stock of medical oxygen in the next three-four days.
Leader of opposition Tejashwi Yadav in a statement said that the opposition parties were demanding lockdown for many days, but the state government has acted only when the infection has spread in villages.
National Democratic Alliance partner Hindustani Awam Morcha of ex-CM Jitan Ram Manjhi drew the government's attention to difficulties faced by the poor during lockdown and made an appeal to the administration to ensure the daily wage earners do not face hunger.