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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: When the coronavirus count is getting bigger every day in the country, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today announced a near lockdown for 5 districts and 8 towns till March 29.

The unprecedented decision of Odisha makes it the second state after Maharashtra to take this extraordinary step to combat the growing novel coronavirus cases nationally.

The five districts are: Khurda, Cuttack, Ganjam, Kendrapada and Angul. And the eight cities are: Sambalpur, Rourkela, Puri, Jharsuguda, Balasore, Jajpur Road, Jajpur and Bhadrak.

Significantly, Maharashtra went for lockdown in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Pimpri till March 31st, following the cities having emerged as the epicentre of Covid-19 cases there.

But the subtle difference here is Odisha imposed lockdown, despite having reported mere 2 Covid-19 positives.

More importantly, unlike Maharashtra, there is no evidence to suggest local transmission in Odisha. Both the positive cases so far are imported ones. The Covid-19 positives have a travel history to foreign nations like Italy and UK.

As per the information provided by Subroto Bagchi, Odisha Covid-19 Chief Spokesperson, as on March 21, 69 tests have been conducted and 67 have resulted negative. Still, why Odisha government has gone for this pre-emptive strike?

In his regular press briefing, Bagchi explained the rationale behind the lockdown decision.

“A high of 3,222 persons from abroad have returned to the State. The returnees mainly belong to these 5 districts and 8 towns. They have been directed to stay in home-quarantine. In order to arrest Covid-19 spread, lockdowns have been enforced in these places,” he said.

What is Lockdown? Lockdown is otherwise also known as community quarantine. This is a model of quarantine where all citizens in a certain region are prohibited from going in and out of the territory without official permission from authorities. And this is basically done to contain the spread of any epidemic from region A to region B.

Significantly, the explanation gives more clues about the intention of the State government’s unprecedented lockdown decision today.

It is well understood that since over 3000 foreign returnees dwell mostly in the 5 districts and 8 towns, the lockdown has been imposed to prevent its spread from these places to other districts in the State.

But since lockdown also prevents entry into these districts, it seems the lockdown has been enforced to prevent people moving into these districts from source states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka etc.

The reason: Odisha government foresees return of migrant workers in hordes from these states to the 5 districts and 8 towns, following the worsening of crisis there.

The State government has very strategically chosen the districts and cities that have rail and road link to such source states, which are badly hit by the novel coronavirus.

Since the State government cannot carry out a massive registration exercise of inter-state migrants, it uses the lockdown policy to disrupt the cycle of virus transmission into Odisha.

It needs mentioning here that in last 24-hours, 12 Covid-19 positive cases have been detected in two long-distance trains, says a release of Indian railways.

The concept of lockdown is a proven policy decision to curb and regulate crowd movement during epidemic times. China and South Korea have recently demonstrated the practical utility of lockdown.

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