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Delhi Government’s Response to COVID-19 (till April 23, 2020)

As of April 23, Delhi has 2,248 cases of COVID-19.  After Maharashtra and Gujarat, Delhi has the highest number of cases in the country.  On March 22, when the number of cases rose to 29, the Delhi government announced lockdown in the state until March 31, to contain the spread of COVID-19. This has been followed by a nation-wide lockdown by the central government between March 25 and May 3.  In this blog, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the state government in response to COVID-19 so far.

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Before the lockdown

On March 8, with three cases of COVID-19 in the state, the Department of Health and Family Welfare decided to carry out an awareness drive at various crowded places during Holi.  Along with it, the government also took several other steps for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the state.  Some of these measures are summarised below.

Health Measures

Disinfecting the vehicles: On March 11 and 12, the government ordered to disinfect minibusesschool buses and school cabs daily.

The Delhi Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020: On March 12, with six cases of COVID-19, the Delhi government notified The Delhi Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.  These regulations are valid for a year.  Key provisions include:

(i)  All government and private hospitals should have dedicated flu corners.

(ii) home quarantine for people who have travelled through the affected areas, and

(iii) Certain persons authorised under the Regulations, with the approval of the State Task Force, can take necessary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as: (i) sealing a geographical area, (ii) restricting the movement of vehicles and people, and (iii) initiating active and passive surveillance of COVID-19 cases.

Movement Restrictions

Educational institutions: On March 12, the government ordered the closure of all educational institutions up to March 31.  The students writing examinations were allowed to attend them along with the staff.   However, on March 19, the government ordered the postponement of exams until March 31.

Public gatherings:

  • On March 13, the government issued an order prohibiting the gatherings of over 200 people such as seminars, conferences, and Indian Premier League cricket matches.   This was further restricted to 50 people on March 16, and to 20 people on March 19 when the number of cases rose to 12.
  • Between March 12 and March 16, the government ordered the closure of cinema hallspublic swimming poolsgyms, and night clubs until March 31.   On March 19 and 20, sports complexes and shopping malls were also ordered to be shut down. 

Restaurants and private establishments: On March 19, all restaurants were ordered to discontinue sitting arrangements until March 31.  Private establishments were ordered to allow their employees to work from home till March 31. 

Delhi-Kathmandu bus service: On March 20, the government suspended the Delhi-Kathmandu bus service, officially known as the Maitri Bus Sewa.

During the lockdown

On March 22, when the number of cases rose to 29, the Delhi government announced the lockdown in the state until March 31.  The lockdown involved: (i) suspending the public transport services, (ii) sealing borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, (iii) suspending all domestic and international flights arriving in Delhi, and (iv) banning the congregation of more than five persons at any public place.  This was followed by a nation-wide lockdown enforced by the central government between March 25 and April 14, now extended till May 3

Starting from April 20, the central government allowed certain activities in less-affected districts of the country.  However, the Delhi government, on April 19, announced that there will not be any relaxation in the lockdown in Delhi, until another comprehensive assessment which will be made on April 27.

Welfare Measures

The Delhi government announced several welfare measures to address the difficulties being faced by people during the lockdown.  Key measures include:

Night shelters: The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board is providing free meals to the homeless people staying in the night shelters.  On March 25, a hunger helpline was set up which directs the needy people to the nearest night shelter for food.

Hunger Relief Centers: On March 26, the government directed the District Magistrates to set up at least two hunger relief centres in every municipal ward for providing 500 meals twice (lunch and dinner) every day at each centre. 

Financial assistance: The government is providing one-time financial assistance of Rs 5,000 to drivers of vehicles such as autos, taxis, and e-rickshaws.

Compensation to family members: The Delhi government will be giving compensation of one crore rupees to the family members of the employees who may die due to COVID-19.

Health Measures

Additional manpower: On March 24, the government ordered the hospitals and institutions under the Department of Health and Family Welfare to engage up to 25% additional manpower in outsourced services such as sanitation, security, and nursing assistants. 

Wearing masks made compulsory: On April 8, the government made it compulsory for all people to wear masks in public places, offices, gatherings, meetings, and personal vehicles.

Identification of paid quarantine facilities: On April 13, the government ordered all district magistrates to identify paid quarantine facilities in their respective districts for housing the people who would like to use private facilities on payment basis.   

Creation of a multi-sectoral dedicated team: On April 13, the government ordered for the creation of the Corona Foot Warriors and Containment Team at every booth.  The government aims to enhance ground level intervention through them. 

Setting up Helpline: On April 17, the Department of Health and Family Welfare set up a dedicated 24x7 Whatsapp number for receiving complaints and requests from the people related to COVID-19.

Measures related to Media

The government took the following steps to control the spread of fake news related to COVID-19:

  • On April 1, the government ordered the Director, Directorate of Information and Publicity to regularly monitor the fake news across print and electronic media.  He was appointed as the nodal officer of Delhi’s fact check unit on April 3.    
  • On April 20, the Department of Health and Family Welfare ordered all government hospitals to create a media cell for monitoring the fake news about the functioning of hospitals on social and news media.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Power Sector

The central government has enforced a nation-wide lockdown between March 25 and May 3 as part of its measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.  During the lockdown, several restrictions have been placed on the movement of individuals and economic activities have come to a halt barring the activities related to essential goods and services. The restrictions are being relaxed in less affected areas in a limited manner since April 20.  In this blog, we look at how the lockdown has impacted the demand and supply of electricity and what possible repercussions its prolonged effect may have on the power sector. 

Power supply saw a decrease of 25% during the lockdown (year-on-year)

As electricity cannot be stored in large amount, the power generation and supply for a given day are planned based on the forecast for demand.  The months of January and February in 2020 had seen an increase of 3% and 7% in power supply, respectively as compared to 2019 (year-on-year).  In comparison, the power supply saw a decrease of 3% between March 1 and March 24.  During the lockdown between March 24 and April 19, the total power supply saw a decrease of about 25% (year-on-year).

Figure 1: % change in power supply position between March 1 and April 19 (Y-o-Y from 2019 to 2020)

Sources: Daily Reports; POSOCO; PRS.

If we look at the consumption pattern by consumer category, in 2018-19, 41% of total electricity consumption was for industrial purposes, followed by 25% for domestic and 18% for agricultural purposes.  As the lockdown has severely reduced the industrial and commercial activities in the country, these segments would have seen a considerable decline in demand for electricity. However, note that the domestic demand may have seen an uptick as people are staying indoors.

Figure 2: Power consumption by consumer segment in 2018-19

Sources: Central Electricity Authority; PRS.

Electricity demand may continue to be subdued over the next few months. At this point, it is unclear that when lockdown restrictions are eased, how soon will economic activities return to pre COVID-19 levels. India’s growth projections also highlight a slowdown in the economy in 2020 which will further impact the demand for electricity.  On April 16, the International Monetary Fund has slashed its projection for India’s GDP growth in 2020 from 5.8% to 1.9%.

A nominal increase in energy and peak deficit levels

As power sector related operations have been classified as essential services, the plant operations and availability of fuel (primarily coal) have not been significantly constrained. This can be observed with the energy deficit and peak deficit levels during the lockdown period which have remained at a nominal level.  Energy deficit indicates the shortfall in energy supply against the demand during the day.  The average energy deficit between March 25 and April 19 has been 0.42% while the corresponding figure was 0.33% between March 1 and March 24. Similarly, the average peak deficit between March 25 and April 19 has been 0.56% as compared to 0.41% between March 1 and March 24.  Peak deficit indicates the shortfall in supply against demand during highest consumption period in a day.

Figure 3: Energy deficit and peak deficit between March 1, 2020 and April 19, 2020 (in %)

Sources: Daily Reports; POSOCO; PRS.

Coal stock with power plants increases

Coal is the primary source of power generation in the country (~71% in March 2020).  During the lockdown period, the coal stock with coal power plants has seen an increase.  As of April 19, total coal-stock with the power plants in the country (in days) has risen to 29 days as compared to 24 days on March 24. This indicates that the supply of coal has not been constrained during the lockdown, at least to the extent of meeting the requirements of power plants.

Energy mix changes during the lockdown, power generation from coal impacted

During the lockdown, power generation has been adjusted to compensate for reduced consumption, Most of this reduction in consumption has been adjusted by reduced coal power generation. As can be seen in Table 1, coal power generation reduced from an average of 2,511 MU between March 1 and March 24 to 1,873 MU between March 25 and April 19 (about 25%).  As a result, the contribution of coal in total power generation reduced from an average of 72.5% to 65.6% between these two periods.

Table 1: Energy Mix during March 1-April 19, 2020

Sources: Daily Reports; POSOCO; PRS.

This shift may be happening due to various reasons including: (i) renewable energy sources (solar, wind, and small hydro) have MUST RUN status, i.e., the power generated by them has to be given the highest priority by distribution companies, and (ii) running cost of renewable power plants is lower as compared to thermal power plants.

This suggests that if growth in electricity demand were to remain weak, the adverse impact on the coal power plants could be more as compared to other power generation sources.  This will also translate into weak demand for coal in the country as almost 87% of the domestic coal production is used by the power sector.  Note that the plant load factor (PLF) of the thermal power plants has seen a considerable decline over the years, decreasing from 77.5% in 2009-10 to 56.4% in 2019-20. Low PLF implies that coal plants have been lying idle.  Coal power plants require significant fixed costs, and they incur such costs even when the plant is lying idle. The declining capacity utilisation augmented by a weaker demand will undermine the financial viability of these plants further.

Figure 4: Power generation from coal between March 1, 2020 and April 19, 2020 (in MU)

Sources: Daily Reports; POSOCO; PRS.

Finances of the power sector to be severely impacted

Power distribution companies (discoms) buy power from generation companies and supply it to consumers.  In India, most of the discoms are state-owned utilities.  One of the key concerns in the Indian power sector has been the poor financial health of its discoms.  The discoms have had high levels of debt and have been running losses. The debt problem was partly addressed under the UDAY scheme as state governments took over 75% of the debt of state-run discoms (around 2.1 lakh crore in two years 2015-16 and 2016-17).  However, discoms have continued to register losses owing to underpricing of electricity tariff for some consumer segments, and other forms of technical and commercial losses.  Outstanding dues of discoms towards power generation companies have also been increasing, indicating financial stress in some discoms. At the end of February 2020, the total outstanding dues of discoms to generation companies stood at Rs 92,602 crore.

Due to the lockdown and its further impact in the near term, the financial situation of discoms is likely to be aggravated. This will also impact other entities in the value chain including generation companies and their fuel suppliers. This may lead to reduced availability of working capital for these entities and an increase in the risk of NPAs in the sector.  Note that, as of February 2020, the power sector has the largest share in the deployment of domestic bank credit among industries (Rs 5.4 lakh crore, 19.3% of total).

Following are some of the factors which have impacted the financial situation during the lockdown:

  • Reduced cross-subsidy: In most states, the electricity tariff for domestic and agriculture consumers is lower than the actual cost of supply. Along with the subsidy by the state governments, this gap in revenue is partly compensated by charging industrial and commercial consumers at a higher rate.  Hence, industrial and commercial segments cross-subsidise the power consumption by domestic and agricultural consumers.

  • The lockdown has led to a halt on commercial and industrial activities while people are staying indoors.  This has led to a situation where the demand from the consumer segments who cross-subsidise has decreased while the demand from consumer segments who are cross-subsidised has increased.  Due to this, the gap between revenue realised by discoms and cost of supply will widen, leading to further losses for discoms.  States may choose to bridge this gap by providing a higher subsidy.

  • Moratorium to consumers: To mitigate the financial hardship of citizens due to COVID-19, some states such as RajasthanUttar Pradesh, and Goa, among others, have provided consumers with a moratorium for payment of electricity bills. At the same time, the discoms are required to continue supplying electricity. This will mean that the return for the supply made in March and April will be delayed, leading to lesser cash in hand for discoms.

  • Some state governments such as Bihar also announced a reduction in tariff for domestic and agricultural consumers. Although, the reduction in tariff will be compensated to discoms by government subsidy.

  • Constraints with government finances: The revenue collection of states has been severely impacted as economic activities have come to a halt. Further, the state governments are directing their resources for funding relief measures such as food distribution, direct cash transfers, and healthcare. This may adversely affect or delay the subsidy transfer to discoms.

  • The UDAY scheme also requires states to progressively fund greater share in losses of discoms from their budgetary resources (10% in 2018-19, 25% in 2019-20, and 50% in 2020-21).  As losses of discoms may widen due to the above-mentioned factors, the state government’s financial burden is likely to increase.

Capacity addition may be adversely impacted

As per the National Electricity Plan,  India’s total capacity addition target is around 176 GW for 2017-2022.  This comprises of 118 GW from renewable sources, 6.8 GW from hydro sources, and 6.4 GW from coal (apart from 47.8 GW of coal-based power projects already in various stages of production as of January 2018).  

India has set a goal of installing 175 GW of Renewable Power Capacity by 2022 as part of its climate change commitments (86 GW has been installed as of January 2020).  In January 2020, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy observed that India could only install 82% and 55% of its annual renewable energy capacity addition targets in 2017-18 and 2018-19. As of January 2020, 67% of the target has been achieved for 2019-20.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, the capacity addition targets for various sources is likely to be adversely impacted in the short run as:

  • construction activities were stopped during the lockdown and will take some time to return to normal,

  • disruption in the global supply chain may lead to difficulties with the availability of key components leading to delay in execution of projects, for instance, for solar power plants, solar PV modules are mainly imported from China, and

  • reduced revenue for companies due to weak demand will leave companies with less capacity left for capital expenditure.

Key reforms likely to be delayed

Following are some of the important reforms anticipated in 2020-21 which may get delayed due to the developing situation:

  • The real-time market for electricity: The real-time market for electricity was to be operationalised from April 1, 2020. However, the lockdown has led to delay in completion of testing and trial runs. The revised date for implementation is now June 1, 2020.

  • UDAY 2.0/ADITYA: A new scheme for the financial turnaround of discoms was likely to come this year. The scheme would have provided for the installation of smart meters and incentives for rationalisation of the tariff, among other things. It remains to be seen what this scheme would be like since the situation with government finances is also going to worsen due to anticipated economic slowdown. 

  • Auction of coal blocks for commercial mining: The Coal Ministry has been considering auction of coal mines for commercial mining this year. 100% FDI has been allowed in the coal mining activity for commercial sale of coal to attract foreign players. However, the global economic slowdown may mean that the auctions may not generate enough interest from foreign as well as domestic players.

For a detailed analysis of the Indian Power Sector, please see here.  For details on the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the country and across states, please see here.  For details on the major COVID-19 related notifications released by the centre and the states, please see here.  

UP Government’s Response to COVID-19 (till April 22)

As of April 22, Uttar Pradesh has seen 1,449 cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and accounts for 6.8% of the total cases in India.  Of the 1,449 persons infected of the disease, 173 have recovered and 21 have died (3.1% of the total deaths in India due to the disease).  These proportions are quite lower as compared to the state’s share in the country’s population (16.5% as per Census 2011).  However, the same holds for the number of persons tested for COVID-19 as well, as of the 4.85 lakh persons tested in India, 37,490 persons (7.7%) have been tested in Uttar Pradesh.

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the state government has taken various measures over the past 2-3 months, spanning across areas such as health, law and order, and social welfare.  This includes imposition of lockdown in 16 districts starting March 23, which was extended to the entire state on March 24, before the nation-wide lockdown came into effect.   This blog post looks at the key measures taken by the state government in response to COVID-19 and the lockdown.

Before the lockdown

One of the earliest steps the state government took in response to COVID-19 was on January 27, when it planned to set up a 10-bed isolation ward in every district hospital and medical college, and increased vigilance on the Indo-Nepal border and airports.  Subsequently, on March 15, it ordered all travellers coming from foreign countries to be kept under surveillance and quarantine for a period of 14 days.  Between March 13 and March 17, the government ordered the closure of educational institutionscinema halls, museums, and tourist spots to prevent public gatherings.   On March 20, this was extended to include malls, and all religious, social, and cultural activities.  Further, to prevent unnecessary crowding, government hospitals were ordered to provide emergency services only.

Welfare measures:  The state government also undertook certain relief measures to provide aid to the persons affected due to COVID-19 and the consequent loss of economic activities.  These include: (i) free treatment for all persons infected with COVID-19, (ii) order to all employers to provide 28-days paid leave to infected or quarantined persons under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, (iii) another order under the Act to all shops and factories to provide paid leave to all workers if the government orders temporary closure of their business, (iv) free one-month ration to 1.65 crore registered construction workers and daily wage labourers for April, and (v) Rs 1,000 per month of direct cash support to 20.4 lakh registered construction workers, and to 15 lakh street vendors and other unregistered workers.

During the lockdown

During the lockdown, the state government’s measures have been aimed towards: (i) strengthening the medical response in the state, (ii) providing relief to various sections of the society from issues being faced during the lockdown, including UP migrants in other states, and (iii) addressing difficulties being faced in the supply of essential goods and services.  For implementation of these measures, the government constituted 11 committees on March 26 for the work related to various departments.  On April 13, similar committees were constituted under the respective Ministers.

Healthcare

Medical facilities:   On March 23, committees were constituted in each district to determine the process for purchase of emergency medical equipment.   On March 25, the government ordered each of the 51 government and private medical colleges in the state to set up isolation wards of 200-300 beds.   It also proposed to conduct training programmes at district-level for AYUSH doctors, nursing staff, retired health workers, and officers of army medical corps.   This was subsequently made more comprehensive by including lab technicians, ward boys, and sweepers.

Testing:  On April 3, the government ordered setting up one testing lab in every medical college, or in a district hospital, in case there is no medical college in the district.   On April 20, the government decided to encourage the use of pool testing within the state to contain the spread of COVID-19.   It also approved consideration of plasma therapy as a treatment option for COVID-19.

Funding:  On April 3, the UP COVID Care Fund was set up for strengthening treatment facilities in medical colleges, and for expenditure on personal protection equipment, test kits, ventilators, isolation and quarantine wards, and telemedicine.  Subsequently, two Ordinances were promulgated on April 8 to deduct the salaries and allowances of Ministers, MLAs, and MLCs for 2020-21 by 30% to donate Rs 20 crore to the UP COVID Care Fund.   Further, Rs 1,509 crore was made available for the Fund by suspending the Local Area Development scheme for legislators for a period of one year.  In addition, the government increased the limit of the Contingency Fund from Rs 600 crore to Rs 1,200 crore through an Ordinance to allow for extra-budgetary expenditure on COVID-19 related measures.

Hotspots:  On April 8, the government sealed the hotspot areas across the state by prohibiting any movement in the area.  Only medical, sanitisation, and doorstep delivery teams are allowed to enter and exit the hotspot areas, and all enterprises are required to be completely closed.  The government has also ordered for door-to-door checking of the residents living in hotspot areas.

Essential goods and services

Other than the distribution of ration, the state government is providing food to persons staying in night shelters, with community kitchens being set up for persons who are unable to cook.  On April 17, the government made access to the Public Distribution System (PDS) universal till June 30, irrespective of the availability of ration card and Aadhaar card.  In case of death of a person, his ration card, maintenance allowance, and other benefits will be provided to his family as per their eligibility.

To prevent profiteering from sale of essential goods, on March 28, the government ordered the shopkeepers to display the price list in their shops.   On March 29, the government decided that the supply of electricity and water will be ensured and these connections will not be cut for one month.  Subsequently, it also ordered that fixed charges for electricity will not be levied for industries during the period of lockdown.  On April 3, the government ordered banks to remain open on holidays so that government relief assistance is available to the beneficiaries.

Migrants

From other states:  On March 26, the state government decided that migrant workers travelling through the state to other states such as Bihar will be provided food and shelter, and sent safely to their destination.  Subsequently, on March 28, the government decided to prepare the list of migrants who came to the state, provide them food, and keep them under surveillance and quarantine.  On April 22, the government allowed migrants from other states to go back to their home state if the respective state government decides to take them back.

From UP:  The state government requested other states to provide food and shelter to the migrants from UP present in their states, and requested the migrants to stay where they are.  To provide further support to migrants, the state government appointed senior administrative and police officials as nodal officers for each state where migrants from UP might be present.  These nodal officers are the main points of contact for migrants living in the respective states.  They are also responsible for coordinating with the respective state government and local administration to ensure the essential needs of migrants such as food and shelter are met, and alleviate their difficulties, if any.

On April 19, the government brought nearly 8,000 students who were studying in Kota back to the state.  The government allowed them to be kept in quarantine in their homes provided they download the Aarogya Setu app.

Economy

The state government is encouraging the purchase of produce by Farmer Producer Organisations directly from farms as an alternate option to mandis.   On April 13, the government formed a committee of officials to prepare a workplan for attracting investment made by countries such as USA and Japan, which is moving out of China, to the state.  In this regard, the government is planning to contact the embassies of various countries.  On April 19, it constituted another committee to work towards providing employment to about 5 lakh migrant workers who have returned to the state in the last 45 days.  On April 20, the government also allowed construction work on expressway projects to begin after preparation of an action plan.  In line with the advisories issued by the central government, the state government decided to provide relaxations from the lockdown in districts with less than 10 cases starting April 20.  The district administrations are preparing action plans for opening up industries in these districts, excluding the ones situated in the hotspot areas.

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Sikkim Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (till April 22, 2020)

As of April 22, 2020, Sikkim does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19.  As of April 21, 2020, 87 samples have been sent for testing from Sikkim.  Of these, 80 have tested negative for COVID-19, and the results of seven samples are awaited.  The state has announced several policy decisions to prevent the spread of the virus and provide relief for those affected by it.  In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the Sikkim state government in this regard as of April 22, 2020.  

Response before national lockdown

On March 16, the state government responded to the growing number of suspected cases in India by notifying certain directions to be applicable till April 15, 2020.  These included: (i) banning the entry of all domestic and foreign tourists in to the state, (ii) closing all educational institutes and anganwadis, (iii) prohibiting the use of recreational facilities such as, casinos, gym, and cinemas, (iii) closing three out of five check posts (border opening) for all visitors in to the state and opening the other two only for medical and police teams, and (iv) banning private industries from getting migrant workers from outside the state and avoiding large concentration of workers at one place.

On March 19, assembly of more than five people was prohibited in the state until April 15, 2020.  The government ordered the suspension of all non-essential work on March 19.  The supply of all essential commodities such as food grains, vegetables, sanitisers and masks was allowed.  Further, the formation of a sub-divisional task force to detect suspected cases was ordered.  

On March 22, the government regulated intra-state movement of private vehicles, two-wheelers and taxis on an odd-even basis (allowing plying of vehicles on alternate days as per the number plate) until April 15, 2020.  The government also reduced the budget session of the state to two days on March 23. 

On March 25, the central government announced on a 21-day country-wide lockdown till April 14.  During the lockdown the state government took various steps for physical containment, health, financial and welfare measures.  These are detailed below.

Measures taken during lockdown

Movement Restrictions

Certain movement restrictions were put across the state.   These include:

  • Movement of vehicles: Inter-state movement of vehicles was restricted to vehicles transporting essential goods.  These vehicles need to have a permanent pass for such movement.  On April 5, intra-state movement of vehicles was restricted to government officials, transportation of essential commodities, banks and PSUs, and media and cable networks.   Their passes are valid only from 8am to 5pm.
     
  • Validity of passes:  The state government noted that a large number of vehicle passes were issued due to various reasons.  On April 14, the government ordered that all passes issued by District Magistrates, and other Departmental Authorities (except those issued by the police, health department and forest and environment department) will be invalid from April 14.  New passes will be issued only by Magistrates and Block Development Officers.  
     
  • Securing borders:  In view of the COVID-19 pandemic and to check unauthorised cross-border infiltration from China, Nepal, and Bhutan, the state government secured all porous borders along the Rangpo river and other vulnerable areas.

Essential Goods and Services

On April 5, the state government issued an order requiring establishments such as shops, hotels, private offices, and commercial establishments to remain closed until April 15.  Establishments which were permitted to remain functional include law enforcement agencies, health services, electricity and water services, petrol pumps, and media.  Shops for PDS, groceries, vegetables, milk and, medicines were only allowed remain open from 9 am to 4 pm.

  • Valid prescription and label required:  On March 25, the state prohibited the sale of hand sanitisers without drug manufacturing licence label.  It also prohibited sale of N95 masks to general public without valid prescription. 
     
  • Transit camps:  On April 17, the state government notified that transit camps (temporary accommodation) will be set up for drivers and helpers of vehicles carrying essential goods.

Health Measures

On March 31, the Sikkim government identified and set up dedicated isolation wards and treatment centres in the STNM hospital, Sochakgang as a precautionary measure.  The government also issued directions for citizens to avoid getting infected by coronavirus.  These included social distancing, and maintaining proper hygiene.  

On April 18, the state government made it mandatory for all the public, students, teachers, and government employees, to install the Aarogya Setu application.  The government of India launched a mobile app called ‘Aarogya Setu’ to enable people to assess the risk of catching COVID-19 on April 2, 2020.   The app uses Bluetooth and Global Positioning System (GPS) based device location for contact tracing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Welfare Measures

  • Economic relief package:  On March 27, an economic relief package was announced by the state government.   This included free ration in specific quantities (other than the PDS entitlement) to needy families in rural and urban areas, daily wagers, migrant labourers, casual workers, and stranded people.  Further, the government announced an additional incentive wage of Rs 300/day for tea workers at Temi-tea estate. 
     
  • Food distribution:  On April 16, the government announced that Asha workers will be given Rs 5,000 as honorarium for work done during COVID-19.  Further, it ordered the food and civil supply department to compile a list of all the left out beneficiaries for distribution of food relief packages.
     
  • Relief to stranded patients:  On April 16, the government announced that a financial relief of Rs 30,000 will be provided to each patient undergoing treatment and stranded outside Sikkim from the Chief Minister's relief fund.
     
  • Relief for casual workers:  On March 30, the Sikkim government issued directions to all contractors/ employers to pay migrant and casual labourers on the due date without any deductions due to the lockdown.  The state government also provided grants worth Rs 2,000 to the 7,836 registered building and other construction workers in the state.
     
  • Relief for stranded students:  On March 29, the state announced that it will provide Rs 5,000 to each state student stranded outside Sikkim during the nationwide lockdown.

Certain relaxations after 20th April 

On April 14, the nation-wide lockdown was further extended till May 3, 2020.  On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines outlining select activities which will be permitted from April 20 onwards.  These activities include health services, agriculture related activities, certain financial sector activities, operation of Anganwadis, MNREGA works, and cargo movement.  Further, subject to certain conditions, commercial and private establishments, industrial establishments, government offices, and construction activities will also be permitted.  The Sikkim government took the following steps in the same line.

  • On April 19, the state government gave directions to all government and PSU offices to work with up to one-third of their actual staff strength from April 20 onwards. 
     
  • On April 19, the state government gave directions and standard operating procedures to be followed at manufacturing establishments, work spaces and public places post April 20.  These include: (i) no overlapping shifts, (ii) staggered lunch breaks, (iii) training on good hygiene practices, (iv) compulsory wearing of face cover, and (v) sanitising workplaces between shifts. 

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Kerala Government’s Response to COVID-19 (January 30, 2020 - April 22, 2020)

On January 17, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare acknowledged the emergence of COVID-19 that was spreading across China. On January 30, 2020, the country’s first COVID-19 positive case was reported in Kerala.  By March 11, 2020, the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic.  This blog summarises the key policy measures taken by government of Kerala to respond to the pandemic.  

As on April 22, Kerala has had 427 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 307 have recovered (highest rate of recovery in the country). Only three deaths have been recorded in the state so far.

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Pre-lockdown period: Early measures for containment

Following the first confirmed case involving a returnee from Wuhan, China, the initial responses by the state were aimed at surveilling, identifying, and conducting risk-based categorisation of all passenger arrivals from China and others who had come in close contact with these travellers. As two more cases were confirmed on February 2 and 3, the state government declared a health emergency in the state. 

Subsequently, a health advisory was issued to track, identify, and test all travellers with a travel history to Wuhan since January 15, 2020.  Such passengers and their close contacts were to be kept in isolation for 28 days.  The advisory also directed all lodging establishments to maintain a register of travellers with travel histories to corona-affected countries. A similar advisory was issued for student returnees as well. With no further confirmed cases being reported immediately, on February 12, the state withdrew the health emergency.  However, a high state of response and surveillance continued to be applied.

Second wave of infections

When a second wave of infections began spreading in early March, the government took several multi-pronged measures to address the threat. The following measures were taken in this regard:

  • Health measures: Revised guidelines for the clinical management of COVID19 patients, covering testing, quarantine, hospital admission, and discharge, were issued.  
     
  • Instructions were issued regarding airport safety protocols as well as testing of foreign nationals entering and exiting the state. All foreign arrivals, even if asymptomatic, were to be kept in isolation until their test reports were available. 
     
  • Further guidelines and precautions on social distancing and various hygiene norms, such as, use of sanitsers, were also issued to malls, shopping centres, and salons
     
  • Movement restrictions: All non-medical educational institutions, including anganwadis and madrassas were immediately shut down till March 31 and exams of classes 1-7 were postponed. Exams for classes 8 and above were to be held as scheduled. University exams were also postponed till March 31.
     
  • Government departments were asked to make temporary arrangements regarding working hours of their employees. Officials were also instructed to look into welfare measures for migrant workers.
     
  • Guidelines were also issued to private establishments regarding working time, safety measures, and leave for employees.
     
  • Administrative Measures: On March 17, COVID19 was declared a notified disaster, thus becoming eligible for funds from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). SDRF is the primary fund available with state governments for responses to notified disasters. Notifying a disaster enables states to spend more from the SDRF to fight the said disaster.
     
  • In order to better coordinate the state’s response, the government issued instructions to constitute COVID-19 cells in all departments. Meetings and inspections by government officials were also to be avoided. 
     
  • Local Self Government institutions were assigned various roles and responsibilities. These include: (i) running awareness programs, such as, ‘Break the Chain’ initiative, (ii) conducting sanitation and cleanliness drives, (iii) regular outreach to home isolated/quarantined persons, (iv) activating committee system to manage responsibilities, (v) ensuring availability of essential commodities, (vi) categorising and ensuring available response mechanisms, such as, material resources, volunteers, medical resources etc, and (vii) ensuring special attention to vulnerable populations, such as senior citizens, and persons with co-morbidities or undergoing special treatments. 

The lockdown period

On March 23, Kerala announced a state-wide lockdown till March 31.  A day later, the central government announced a nation-wide 21-day lockdown.  

Restrictions imposed under the state’s order included: (i) stoppage of all forms of passenger transport services, (ii) prohibition of a gathering of more than five persons, and (iii) closure of all commercial establishments, officers, and factories, except those exempted.  Use of taxis, autos or private vehicles was permitted only for procurement of essential commodities or for medical emergencies. Establishments providing essential goods and services such as banks, media, telecom services, petrol bunks, and hospitals were permitted to operate.  

On April 15, the central government extended the lockdown till May 3.  Some of the key measures undertaken during the lockdown period are: 

Administrative Measures

  • A round-the-clock war room, comprising members of different departments, was set up to monitor and supervise all COVID-19 containment activities. 
     
  • Corona media cell was set up to monitor and tackle the threat of fake news surrounding COVID19.  
     
  • With the legislature not in session, the Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020 was promulgated by the Governor of Kerala on March 26. The Ordinance empowers the state government to undertake necessary measures and specify regulations to counter the threat of an epidemic disease.  It also specifies a penalty for those who violate orders made under this Ordinance. 

Healthcare Measures

Essential Goods and Services

  • On March 25, the state declared a list of essential services under the Kerala Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1994. 
     
  • Various exemptions from lockdown were issued to services that were later deemed essential. These include: (i) shops and bakeries, including departmental stores, (ii) online food deliveries, (iii) parcel services, for delivery of essential goods, (iv) automobile service workshops, (v) shops and service centres for mobile phones, computers etc, only on Sundays, and (vi) plumbers and electricians to undertake maintenance work in houses and flats. 
     
  • On April 3, orders were issued to set up community kitchens under the aegis of Kudumbasree and Local Self Governments (LSGs). Kudumbasree is the poverty eradication and women empowerment programme implemented by the Kerala government. As on April 20, a total of 339 Community Kitchens have been functioning in 249 panchayats across 14 districts of the state. They have served a total of 5,91,687 meals since April 4, 2020. The government has also instructed LSGs to hire volunteers for the kitchen and pay them an honorarium of Rs. 400 (for one-time service) or Rs. 650 (for the whole-day).

Welfare Measures

  • Under SDRF norms, funds were released to the Health Department for relief and response activities for COVID-19. 
     
  • Each District Collector has been allocated Rs. 50 lakh for carrying out various COVID-19 outbreak-related control and prevention activities.
     
  • Financial assistance has been sanctioned to (i) fishermen, (ii) artists, (iii) lottery agents and sellers, and (iii) elephants and other such animals being looked after. 
     
  • A 2000-crore worth Chief Minister’s Helping Hand Loan Scheme was announced for people facing lockdown-related unemployment and hardships. The scheme will be operationalised through neighbourhood groups under the aegis of Kudumbasree. 

Post-lockdown strategies – Strategies easing lockdown relaxations

  • Expert Committee: On April 4, an Expert Committee was constituted by the government and on April 6, the Committee submitted its Report on the guidelines for post-lockdown regulations. It recommended a conditional, three-phase strategy, with districts being the unit of implementation. Relaxations would be progressively eased in each phase depending on criteria, such as, (i) number of new confirmed cases, (ii) percentage increase/decrease in number of persons under home surveillance, and (iii) no emergence of hotspots.. 
     
  • Containment Guidelines: After the lockdown was extended till May 3, the state released revised guidelines for containment, that recommended classification of districts into four zones, based on number of cases and disease threat. The zones – Red, Orange A, Orange B, and Green – would have different, graded restrictions, with Red having stringent restrictions in the form of a lockdown till May 3. The Orange A and B zones would have a lockdown till April 24 and 20 respectively, followed by a partial relaxation thereafter. Green zone would have a lockdown till April 20 and relaxation in restrictions thereafter.
     
  • Based on the above order, the state issued an advisory for industrial units to follow while resuming operations. Some of the Standard Operating Procedures to be followed include: (i) conducting disinfectation of premises, machinery, and vehicles, (ii) arranging exclusive transportation facilities with vehicles operating at 30-40% capacity, (iii) mandatory thermal scanning of people, (iv) following hygiene and social distancing norms, including a cap on elevator capacities and size of meetings (v) mandatory corona-related insurance cover for workers, (vi) mandatory use of CCTVs, and (vii) preparing a list of nearby COVID-19 hospitals .

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

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Government of Chhattisgarh’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the central and state governments have implemented several measures to reduce the spread of the disease and provide relief for those affected by the it.  In this blog, we look at some of the key measures taken by the Government of Chhattisgarh with regard to public health, ensuring supply of essential commodities and providing relief to affected persons.  

COVID-19 cases in the State

As of April 21, 2020, Chhattisgarh has 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19.  Of these, 11 are active cases, and 25 patients have been cured or discharged.   This is illustrated below in Figure 1. 

Figure 1: Day wise COVID-19 Cases in Chhattisgarh

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Sources: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India; PRS.

Key measures taken by the State Government

On March 13, 2020, the Department of Health and Family Welfare notified the Chhattisgarh Epidemic Disease, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.   Key provisions of the regulations include: 

  • The district collector can take necessary actions such as sealing geographical area of the district and ban vehicular movement, in order to prevent the spread of the epidemic.  Further, the district administration may take measures such as closure of schools, offices and banning public gatherings. 
     
  • In order to avoid rumours and unauthenticated information, no person or institution can use any print or electronic media for information regarding COVID-I9 without prior permission of Health Department.
     
  • All health facilities (including private) should have COVID-19 corners for screening of suspected cases.  Further, they should record travel history of a person if he has travelled to an area affected by COVID-19.  

Movement restrictions:  Following these regulations, the government announced several additional measures to restrict movement of people to contain the spread of COVID-19.

  • On March 19, the Transport department stopped running of all inter-state buses in the state to restrict movement to and from the state.  On March 21, all city bus services in urban areas of the state were suspended. This was followed by stoppage of all transport including auto, taxi and e-rickshaws.
     
  • On March 22, the government announced a lockdown in all urban areas of the state till March 31 during which all offices, institutions and other activities were to remain closed.   Essential services such as medical shops, vegetable shops, petrol pumps, electricity and water supply services were open.    
         
  • On March 25, the central government announced on a 21-day country-wide lockdown till April 14.  On April 14, the lockdown was further extended till May 3, 2020. 

Essential Goods and Services: Following the lockdown, the government notified certain additional essential goods and services that will remain unaffected by the lockdown.   These are noted below:  

  • On March 13, 2020, the central government notified hand sanitisers, surgical masks and N-95 masks as Essential Commodities.  This implies that the government can regulate the product, supply and pricing of these items.   Following this, the state government notified that the district administration should monitor the price of surgical masks, N-95 masks and hand sanitisers in each district of the state.
     
  • On March 24, the state department of Food and Public Distribution notified certain additional essential goods and services under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.  These include: (i) wheat and rice mills, (ii) operations of items used in acquirement or storage of items under the Public Distribution System, such as fertilisers, (iii) supply of Petrol, Diesel, CNG and LPG, among others.
     
  • On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines on the measures to be taken by state governments until May 3.  As per these guidelines, select activities will be permitted in less-affected districts from April 20 onwards to reduce the hardships faced by people.  Permitted activities include: (i) health services such as hospitals, clinics, and vets, (ii) agriculture and related activities such as fisheries and plantations, (iii) MNERGA work, (iv) construction activities, and (v) industrial establishments.

Relief measures:  During the lockdown, the state government announced several measures to provide relief to the affected individuals.  Key measures include: 

  • Rice for two months will be provided in April to all beneficiaries under the Public Distribution System.  Antyodaya & Annapurna ration card holders will also get sugar and salt for two months in April.  Two quintal of rice is allocated to every gram panchayat, which can be utilised for distribution to individuals without ration cards, subject to a maximum of 5 kg for an individual. 
     
  • 4 kg of rice at primary level and 6 kg at upper primary level will be provided to school children under the Mid-day Meal Scheme, on account of closure of schools.  Further, arrangements will be made to provide ready to eat take home rations for undernourished children between the age of 3 to 6 at Aanganwadi centres.  
  • The government approved sanction of MLA funds for corona virus prevention and other necessary arrangements and support.  The Chief Minister announced that there will be no mandatory deduction from salaries of state government officials and employees for pandemic relief. 
     
  • The state’s Labour Department sanctioned Rs 3.8 crore to aid labourers affected due to lockdown. 
     
  • Pending taxes, interest and penalties of bus and truck operators of nearly Rs 331 crore to be waived off.  

Health Measures:  Over the last few weeks, the government issued several guidelines and orders on containment of the virus, patient handling and protection of healthcare workers.  Some of these are noted below:

  • On March 23, the government of Chhattisgarh declared Corona Virus as a "Notified Infectious Disease" under the Chhattisgarh Public Health Act, 1949.  Further, it notified measures to be taken for prevention of spread of COVID-19 at industries and workplaces.  These included restricting the number of employees at workplaces, and ensuring sanitisation at workplace.  
     
  • Guidelines regarding bio-medical waste in quarantine homes and camps were notified.  These guidelines provide that all workers involved in waste collection should be provided with personal protective equipment.  Further, vehicles carrying such waste should be sanitised with 1% hypochlorite after every trip. 
     
  • On April 11, the Department of Health and Family Welfare made it mandatory to wear a mask for all persons while stepping out of their house for any public place. 
     
  • The department also released guidelines for patients cured of COVID-19.  These guidelines provide that such persons should be escorted to their home district from the hospital and regular monitoring and supervision of their health should be ensured by the district administration.   
     
  • Further, the department released guidelines for continuation of other hospital services during COVID-19 outbreak.  The guidelines provide that the patients should be advised on phone as far as possible, and should be given separate timings for in-person appointments to avoid congestion at hospitals.  On April 18, the Chief Minister announced an online health consultation website for patients, through which patients can seek free of cost advice from doctors.   

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Maharashtra Government’s Response to COVID-19 (till April 20, 2020)

With 4,203 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Maharashtra has the highest number of cases in the country as of April 20, 2020.  Of these, 507 have been cured, and 223 have died.  In this blog, we summarise some of the key decisions taken by the Government of Maharashtra for containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state. 

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Measures taken prior to lockdown

By March 12, the state had registered 11 cases of COVID-19. Consequently, the state government took measures to: (i) prepare hospitals for screening and testing of patients, and (ii) limit mass gathering given the highly contagious nature of the disease. The measures taken by the government before the lockdown are summarised below.

Health Measures

On March 14, the government notified the Maharashtra COVID-19 regulations to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state.  Key features of the regulations include: (i) screening of COVID-19 patients in hospitals, (ii) home quarantine for people who have travelled through the affected areas, and (iii) procedures to be followed in the containment zones, among others. 

Movement Restrictions

On March 15, with 31 COVID-19 cases in the state, the Department of Public Health ordered the closure of cinema halls, swimming pools, gyms, theatres, and museums until March 31.   On March 16, all educational institutions and hostels in the state were closed till March 31.  The teaching staff was advised to work from home.  All exams were also deferred until March 31.

Administrative Measures

On March 13, the Maharashtra government constituted a high-level committee to formulate guidelines for mitigating of the spread of COVID-19 in the state.  The responsibilities of the committee included: (i) taking a daily review of the status of COVID-19 in the state, and (ii) implementing the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health.

On March 17, the first casualty due to COVID-19 occurred in the state.  On March 19, the government put restrictions on meetings in the government offices and issued safety guidelines to be followed in these meetings.

On March 20, considering the unmitigated spread of COVID-19 in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur, the attendance in government offices was restricted to 25%. Subsequently, on March 23, the government limited the attendance in government offices to 5% across the state.

Measures taken post-lockdown

To further restrict the movement of individuals, in order to contain the spread of the disease, the state government enforced a state-wide lockdown on March 23. This lockdown, applicable till March 31, involved: (i) closing down of state borders, (ii) suspension of public transport services, and (iii) banning the congregation of more than five people at any public place. Entities engaged in the supply of essential goods and services were excluded from this lockdown.  This was followed by a nation-wide lockdown enforced by the central government between March 25 and April 14, now extended till May 3.  Before the extension announced by the central government, the state government extended the lockdown in the state till April 30.

On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines on the measures to be taken by state governments until May 3.  As per these guidelines, select activities will be permitted in less-affected districts from April 20 onwards to reduce the hardships faced by people.  Some of the permitted activities are (i) agriculture and related activities, (ii) MNERGA works, (iii) construction activities, (iv) industrial establishments, (v) health services, (vi) certain financial sector activities among others subject to certain conditions. 

Welfare Measures

To address the hardship being faced by residents of the state due to lockdown, the state took several welfare measures summarised as follows:

  • On March 30, the School Education Department issued directions to all schools in the state to postpone the collection of school fees until the lockdown is over.

  • The Department of Tribal Development issued directions to provide food/dietary components at home to women beneficiaries and children under Bharat Ratna Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Amrut Aahar Yojana. 

  • The state government issued directives to the private establishments, industries and companies to pay full salaries and wages to their employees. 

  • On April 7, the state Cabinet decided to provide wheat and rice at a subsidised price to all Above Poverty line ration card holders and Shiv Bhojan at Rs 5 for next three months in all Shiv Bhojan centres.

  • On April 17, the Housing Department notified that landlords/house owners should defer the rent collection for three months.  No eviction will be allowed due to non-payment of rent during this period. 

Administrative Measures

  • On March 29, the public works department issued directions suspending the collection of tolls at PWD and MSRDC toll plazas for goods transport until further direction.

  • MLA Local Development Program:  Under MLALAD program, a one-time special exception to use the MLALAD funds was given to legislators for the purchase of medical equipment and materials for COVID-19 during the year 2020-21.

  • Analysing the impact on the economy of the state:  On April 13, the government constituted an Expert Committee and a Cabinet Sub-Committee to analyse the implications of COVID-19 on the economy of the state. These committees will also suggest measures to revive the economy of the state.

Orders relating to Mumbai city

  • On April 8, the city administration made it compulsory for all people to wear masks in public places. 

  • On April 10, the Commissioner of Police, Greater Mumbai issued an order prohibiting any kind of fake or distorted information on all social media and messaging applications. The order is valid until April 24.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.