Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Multiple states in India extend COVID-19 measures into September; variable controls ongoing. International travel limited.

Alert Begins 01 Sep 2020 10:46 AM UTC
Alert Expires 15 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal states (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Movement controls, business and transport disruptions, increased security; possible clashes

Summary
In addition to nationwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) measures through Sept. 30, east Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal are imposing modified controls with local variations in September. Jharkhand and West Bengal states have extended COVID-19 business and transport measures through Sept. 30, while Bihar state has done so through Sept. 6. Strict measures, such as the suspension of nonessential activity, are in place across hotspots with reported COVID-19 clusters. Under such measures, entry and exit remain limited to select transit points and for essential purposes only; officials continue banning all public transport and nonessential private transport. Businesses - mainly providing essential services - will function with minimal workforce; residents must stay home and use delivery services to the extent possible.

Limited public buses and private transport are operational with social distancing measures during noncurfew hours outside containment zones with COVID-19 clusters; additional relaxations to allow the resumption of Metro train services and inter-state travel are likely in the coming days. Officials are also permitting limited domestic flights and special intercity trains for stranded passengers. Travelers from other states or countries will typically undergo a 14-day quarantine at home or in a government facility, depending on medical screening and local rules; international arrivals with a negative COVID-19 test result and short-term domestic visitors may be exempt from quarantine. While businesses are resuming with social distancing measures, educational institutions, entertainment venues, and most public sites remain closed. Mask wearing in public is mandatory. Authorities may progressively relax limits on social gatherings and reopen religious sites in accordance with central government guidelines. Urban centers have reported no significant decrease in cases, delaying normalization. Current or planned measures include:

 

  • Bihar: A nightly 2200-0500 curfew is in place through at least Sept. 6. Intra- and inter-state travel will be limited to select transit points for essential purposes only; prior online permission is mandatory. Authorities will reopen religious establishments in the capital, Patna, from Sept. 21 but require health screenings. Officials have suspended public buses. Limited trains are operational; rental vehicles such as taxis and autorickshaws remain available, mainly for emergency and essential travel. Businesses, except for large retail centers and dine-in eateries, as well as offices, will function with a maximum workforce capacity of 50 percent; shops must follow staggered timings according to local district rules. Authorities are advising residents to stay home and use delivery services to the extent possible. All social gatherings, including for religious services, are banned until further notice. Asymptomatic passengers may serve the mandatory 14-day quarantine at their residence.

 

  • Jharkhand: Officials have extended restrictions through Sept. 30. However, authorities are relaxing some restrictions outside containment zones. Some commercial establishments, including hotels, lodges, and restaurants, can reopen. Inter-district travel is permitted for buses, but inter-state travel remains prohibited. Public gatherings remain banned. Asymptomatic passengers entering the state may serve the mandatory 14-day quarantine at their residence; districts of Deogarh, Ramgarh, and West Singhbhum require all entrants without COVID-19 test results to undergo mandatory testing and stay in government quarantine centers until test results arrive.

 

  • Odisha: Authorities are suspending interstate and interdistrict transport restrictions in seven cities to facilitate national entrance examinations through Sept. 7 and from Sept. 12-14. The affected cities are Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Balasore, Sambalpur, Angul, and Rourkela. Officials will likely announce modifications to earlier measures, such as a nightly curfew, limitations on intra- and inter-state travel, as well as reduced public transport services, after examinations conclude. The government may reintroduce commercial restrictions, such as requiring some businesses to operate at 50-percent capacity with reduced opening hours.

 

  • West Bengal: The state government has extended measures through Sept. 30. Authorities are also continuing to prohibit large gatherings. However, limited metro rail services will resume from Sept. 8, albeit while following social distancing measures. Officials will ban all nonessential activity statewide Sept. 7, 11, and 12; residents must stay home. Commercial entities and transport services will suspend operations; flight operations are prohibited at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU) and Bagdogra Airport (IXB). Essential services will be allowed to operate Sept. 7, 11, and 12, including intra- and inter-state movement of goods and medical services. Authorities will continue to enforce stricter measures in containment zones through Sept. 30 by enforcing entry and exit restrictions.

 


Local administration and police will continue to enforce and facilitate control measures. Emergency and utility services remain operational nationwide. While banks and businesses selling essential goods, such as fuel, food, and medicines, remain open in containment zones, officials will almost certainly regulate price, supply, and opening hours. Panic-buying and associated localized shortages of essential goods may occur in some areas. Sporadic clashes are possible if groups attempt to enforce business closures or defy official orders. Police may forcibly disperse unruly crowds. Violators may face legal action. Authorities could modify restrictions at short notice, mainly in major cities.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the Indian government are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions; minimize outdoor activity to the extent possible. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm business appointments, deliveries, work, and travel arrangements. Do not check out of accommodation without confirming onward travel. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Ensure access to essential items, plan for queues, and delays at available shopping centers. Carry proper identification documents and heed all security advisories.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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