Chennai: With Tamil Nadu witnessing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, the government on Saturday announced clamping a two-week "total lockdown" across the state to curb the spread of the pandemic, starting May 10.
Chief Minister M K Stalin said in a statement the lockdown was being enforced due to "unavoidable reasons" and pointed out that the decision was taken based on inputs received at a review meeting he had with district collectors on Friday, besides consultations with medical experts.
The recommendations made by the Union Home and Health ministries had also been factored in.
"The total lockdown will be enforced from 4 am on May 10 to 4 am on May 24 to further intensify the efforts to curb the spread of the disease," he said.
He later took to Twitter to insist that the lockdown had to be clamped in the backdrop of sharp increase in daily new infections of about 25,000 which was likely to go up in the next two weeks.
Earlier, Stalin announced relaxing existing restrictions on business hours for shops on Saturday and Sunday, when a full day-long lockdown is supposed to be in effect, allowing them to remain open till 9 pm to aid people since stricter curbs would kick in from May 10.
The state-run liquor outlets operated by Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC), all bars, spas, gyms, beauty parlours, salons, auditoria, cinema theatres, recreation clubs and amusement and zoological parks will be shut during this period.
Beaches and tourist attractions in the hilly locations of Udhagamandalam and Kodaikanal will be out of bounds for people.
Offices of government departments other than those dealing with essential services including Health, Revenue, Police, Fire and Rescue Services and Disaster Management will not function, he said.
All private offices and companies and IT and ITES firms shall also remain closed and employees can work from home.
Existing restrictions regarding places of worship, cap on attendees in wedding and death-related events will continue while educational institutions will remain closed.
Inter and intra-district public and private bus services will be suspended while hire taxis and autorickshaws cannot ply.
Those travelling for essential work like wedding, death, interview or exams shall produce proof to be allowed permission to proceed, the chief minister added.
Standalone shops selling vegetables, groceries, provision items, fish and meat products can remain open till 12 noon with only fifty per cent customers.
E-commerce firms distributing these can do so till noon, he added.
"Other than the aforementioned shops, no other establishments can run," during the lockdown, Stalin said.
There shall be no dine-in services in hotels and tea shops and the former can sell takeaways in staggered working hours through the day. Tea stalls have to down shutters by noon.
Those allowed to work during the lockdown period include media, courier firms, hospitals and related services, fuel outlets, continuous process industries, data centers, and telecom services, he said.
State-run Amma Canteens will remain open, platform vendors selling vegetables and flowers can do so till 12 pm and fair price shops will work from 8 am to 12 noon, he said.
Stalin urged people to follow the covid protocols and extend cooperation to the government's pandemic prevention activities.
Tamil Nadu saw 26,465 new coronavirus cases on Friday, pushing the caseload to 13.23 lakh while a record 197 deaths in the last 24 hours took the toll to 15,171.
According to the health department, the active cases stood at 1,35,355.
Stalin said 23 districts in the state had a positivity rate of 10 per cent.
Menawhile, in a video uploaded on his official Twitter handle, the chief minister explained the need to go for the stricter restriction, saying neighbouring Kerala and Karnataka have already clamped lockdown.
"The situation in northern and neighbouring states is scary. Though Tamil Nadu is not so bad but in over 10 districts the virus is spreading fast, with 25,000 new infections daily (across the state). Doctors say that in two weeks this will go up further."
"It will then become a big challenge for the medical sector to control the pandemic. They have risked their lives. Yesterday I held discussions with officials who say that another lockdown is necessary to curb the spread," he said.
Stalin said the pandemic cannot be curbed without breaking the chain for which the May 10-24 lockdown was being enforced.
"It is true poor people's livelihood will be affected due to this. If there was no lockdown it would become a difficult task to control coronavirus. Realising this, Kerala and Karnataka have implemented lockdown," he said and sought public support to check the spread of the contagion.
He assured people that the government's efforts to check the spread have "picked up pace from today."