Assam today announced a "total lockdown" in Guwahati from Monday for the next two weeks after a sharp surge in new coronavirus patients was recorded in the last ten days. Next week, only pharmacies and hospitals will be allowed to open in the city, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said this afternoon as he stressed: "Please finish your shopping by Sunday."
"A total lockdown will be observed in Kamrup (Metro) district for two weeks from Sunday midnight. For the first seven days, only pharmacies and hospitals will be open. Everything else will be shut," the 51-year-old minister said during a virtual press conference this afternoon. Guwahati is a part of the district.
A 12-hour night-curfew - between 7 pm and 7 am - will be observed across the state from Friday, he added.
The state will enforce a "complete lockdown" in other towns and municipal areas on weekends from Saturday every week; only emergency services will be allowed.
In Guwahati, banks will be allowed to open for a limited duration. Air or rail tickets can be used as passes by travelers, Mr Sarma said, adding that he would review the situation next Friday to consider relaxations.
The city has recorded 677 new infections since June 15, which prompted the state to take the decision. Of 276 fresh infections reported in the state on Thursday, 133 were from Guwahati, Mr Sarma said today, news agency PTI reported.
"We are now left with no choice but to impose a complete lockdown, and this time it will be very strict as no grocery shops will be allowed to open, supply of vegetables and other essentials will not be permitted for the first seven days. This was the only solution to break the chain of transmission," he said, indicating that this may be the strictest lockdown the city has seen since the beginning of the pandemic.
India announced one of the world's strictest lockdowns to tackle the outbreak in March. However, shops selling groceries or other stores selling essentials were not shut during the last three months. Restrictions were eased earlier this month as the government revealed the plan to "unlock" the nation to revive the economy, badly hit by the pandemic.
With over 6,300 coronavirus cases, Assam is one of the worst-affected states in the northeast. Nine deaths linked to the highly contagious illness have been recorded so far, according to the Union Health Ministry. Around 4,000 patients in Assam have recovered.
India's corornavirus tally soared to 4.9 lakh cases this morning after more than 17,000 new infections were recorded in the last 24 hours, the government said.
(With inputs from PTI)