Severity: Critical Alert
Exit/Entry: Bihar, West Bengal states in eastern India extend ban on nonessential activity through July 31; varied restrictions remain in other regions.
- Alert Begins: 20 Jul 2020 09:35 AM UTC
- Alert Expires: 31 Jul 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
Officials in Bihar State have suspended nonessential activity July 16-31, as part of its revised coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions; West Bengal State will extend similar measures in high-risk districts through July 31. As of July 20, most other east Indian states are maintaining COVID-19 measures; limited public buses and all forms of private transport are operational in areas outside of containment zones with COVID-19 clusters. Special intercity trains for stranded passengers and limited domestic flights are also permitted. Travelers from other states or countries will undergo a 14-day quarantine. Symptomatic passengers will stay in a medical facility while asymptomatic patients may be quarantined at home or in a government facility, according to local rules. Both essential and nonessential business operations have resumed, including some religious sites, shopping malls, dine-in restaurants, and hotels. Entertainment venues and most public sites remain closed. Urban centers such as Kolkata and Patna have reported no significant decrease in cases, delaying normalization. Current or planned measures include:
- Bihar: A nightly 2200-0500 curfew is in place through July 31. Officials are extending a strict containment strategy, ongoing in Patna District since July 10, to the entire state through July 31. Intra- and inter-state travel will be limited to select transit points and for essential purposes only; officials have suspended public buses and nonessential private transport. Rental vehicles such as taxis and autorickshaws remain available for emergency travel only. Businesses - mainly providing essential services - will function with a minimal workforce; 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: Authorities are enforcing a statewide nightly 2100-0500 curfew through July 31. Only essential and emergency movement of people and vehicles are allowed during curfews; all nonessential businesses must close. Intra- and interstate public transport remains suspended; religious sites and hospitality businesses, including dine-in eateries, remain closed. District authorities in Chatra and Hazaribag are suspending nonessential businesses, transport, and movement July 15-22; businesses in Garhwa District will voluntarily remain shut through July 31. Other districts may introduce similar measures at short notice depending on local cases. 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: Statewide 2100-0500 nightly and weekend curfews across Balasore, Gajapati, Jagatsinghpur, Jharsuguda, Keonjhar, Kendrapara, and Mayurbhanj districts are in place at least through July. In addition, officials are implementing a strict containment strategy in the worst-hit districts of Ganjam, Khorda, Cuttack, and Jajpur, as well as Rourkela city, until further notice. Entry and exit to such areas are limited to select transit points and for essential purposes only; officials have banned all public transport and nonessential private transport. Only essential businesses will function 0600-1300 daily; authorities are advising residents to stay home and use delivery services to the extent possible. Other areas may face similar restrictions if local cases rise in the coming days. Other noncontainment zones across the state are reopening businesses, transport, and limited public sites. Asymptomatic passengers may serve the mandatory 14-day quarantine at their residence.
- West Bengal: A statewide 2100-0500 nightly curfew continues through at least July 31. The state is extending strict restrictions on all nonessential activity in over 700 containment zones through at least July 31. Officials will ban movement into and out of identified areas - including in the Kolkata metropolitan area, consisting of Howrah, Hooghly, Kolkata, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, and South 24 Parganas districts - except for emergency purposes. Jalpaiguri and Malda divisions are also affected. Authorities have also banned all public transport and nonessential private transport. Only essential businesses will function; officials are advising residents to stay home and use delivery services to the extent possible. Other areas may face similar restrictions if local cases rise in the coming days. Noncontainment zones across the state are reopening businesses, transport, and limited public sites. Asymptomatic passengers may serve the mandatory 14-day quarantine at their residence. Authorities have extended a ban on flights to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU) in Kolkata from airports serving Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Nagpur, and Ahmedabad through July 31.
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.
Nationwide restrictions, including the mandatory use of masks in public, the closure of public spaces, such as educational and entertainment venues, a ban on large gatherings, and suspension of non-repatriation international travel, continue. However, businesses and limited public transport can operate outside containment zones with hygiene and social distancing guidelines. A shortened 2200-0500 nightly curfew will continue nationwide with possible timing extensions by local authorities.
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.
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.