15 UP districts identified as COVID-19 hotspots sealed as emergency measure

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A week before the scheduled completion of the three-week lockdown period, the Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday announced the total sealing of 15 districts in the state which have been identified as coronavirus infection hotspots. These districts include the state capital Lucknow, and areas adjoining New Delhi such as Noida and Ghaziabad. The latest restrictions will remain in force till April 15.

According to a government spokesperson, the restrictions will come into effect from Wednesday midnight. The boundaries of these districts will be completely sealed and no movement of any kind will be allowed in identified areas and pockets in these districts. The areas are Lucknow, Gautam Buddh Nagar (Noida), Ghaziabad, Sitapur, Kanpur, Agra, Ferozabad, Bareilly, Meerut, Shamli, Saharanpur, Bulandshahr, Varanasi, Maharajganj and Basti.

The spokesperson said the latest decision is aimed at checking the further spread of COVID-19 in the state, in view of the rising number of cases at these hotspots. Under the new restrictions, even shops selling milk, medicines, banks, ATMs and other essentials will be closed and the state government will try to ensure delivery of all essential items at people’s doorsteps. A report quoting the state’s Chief Secretary RK Tiwari said that “No one will be allowed to step out of their houses and action will be taken against those who flout these orders. Besides, anyone who obstructs paramedical and health workers will face strict action.”

There are 75 districts in UP, with the state’s total population being about 23 crores. So far, 37 districts have been affected by coronavirus and the maximum number of cases has been reported from the above 10 districts. The number of positive cases so far is 326, while there have been four deaths. Among the hotspots, 58 cases have been reported from Noida, 44 from Agra, and 25 from Meerut.

According to a government official, people living in these areas can call the helpline number 112 for any help or delivery of any essential item.

Just two days ago, an official spokesperson had said that the state will remain under lockdown till even a single case of COVID-19 is present in the state. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had told mediapersons through videoconferencing on Tuesday that any decision on the lifting of the lockdown could be taken only after discussions with the Centre.

The state had reported a steady increase in the number of cases after members of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Delhi’s Nizamuddin visited differnt regions in the state. The spokesperson said that more than half of the new cases in UP are linked to Jamaat members.

A lockdown had been announced in 16 districts of UP on March 22 – two days before the three-week nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The decision on the nationwide lockdown ending on April 14 is expected to be taken by April 11 after the Prime Minister discusses the issue with chief ministers. It is learnt that many states have requested the Centre to continue the lockdown.

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