India's Maharashtra state government has decided to impose a seven-hour night curfew in cities across the state from Tuesday for the next 15 days and order travellers from abroad to quarantine themselves. The curfew will be effective in all municipal corporation areas across the state between 11 pm and 6 am till 5 January.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal, however, asserted that the night curfew did not imply that people couldn't step out at all.
"There is a difference between a night curfew and a lockdown. While in a lockdown, individuals cannot step out of their homes. In a curfew, more than 5 people cannot assemble outside during the specified hours. So, offices that function overnight or something like dairy transportation can still operate. Taxis, cars and auto rickshaws will also run just like before," he said.
Chahal added that the curfew was being imposed due to violations of social distancing norms.
"Even on Sunday night, our teams visited some nightclubs and found violations. This is why the decision of night curfew had to be taken. This is not a normal new year which is why we cannot have normal celebrations. The curfew is being imposed to ensure that such violations are not repeated," he said.
The Maharashtra government has also decided to keep all travellers from European and Middle-Eastern countries in institutional quarantine for 14 days. People landing at the state's airports from other countries will be asked to home quarantine themselves, the state government said.
Travelers coming from European and Middle-East countries should be kept at institutional quarantine facilities. Their RT-PCR tests should be conducted on the 5th or 7th day and they will be allowed to go home after completion of the quarantine period.
"Municipal commissioners have been directed to develop institutional quarantine facilities at hotels or by developing temporary facilities close to airports," the chief minister said.
The decision was taken in a high level meeting called by the chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday, a precautionary measure considering the new variant of the Sar-CoV-2 found in Britain that is believed to spread faster than the previous strains. Thackeray said the government and people had to be vigilant for the next 15 days.
"A total of five flights are arriving from the United Kingdom by tomorrow night when the Centre's order to suspend UK flights will come into force. Nearly 1,000 passengers arriving in these flights will be quarantined in hotels. We have arranged 2,000 rooms (1,000 rooms in luxury hotels and 1,000 rooms in budgeted hotels) in hotels across the city. BEST buses will be used to transport them to the hotels," Chahal said.
"If any of the passengers are found to be symptomatic, they will be directly shifted from the airport to GT hospital where beds have already been reserved," he added.