GUWAHATI, March 23 - The Assam government today declared an eight-day lockdown from 6 pm of Tuesday in a bid to check the spread of coronavirus and said violators would be jailed for up to two years. Announcing the decision, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said as the number of positive cases were increasing rapidly in the country the government had to take a �strict� decision and asked people not to panic as essential services will be exempted.
�The lockdown will begin at 6 pm of March 24 and will continue till 12 midnight of March 31. Everything else, except grocery, pharmacy, cooking gas supply and petrol pump will remain closed,� he said, adding that other exemptions are essential services like hospitals, fire, PHE and electricity. Media and telephone services have been also exempted.
While train services and inter-state public transport have been already stopped, there will be no inter-state movement of even private vehicles during the lockdown period.
Goods carriers will be exempted and domestic flight services will be restricted as many flights transport medical equipment.
Also, in view of the financial year end, treasury, banks and government offices associated with financial transaction will operate. Such government offices will operate with only �skeleton ten per cent staff�.
Congregation of more than three people at a time at any religious place has been banned.
The minister said violators of the lockdown will invite a jail term of six months at the first instance and two years at the second.
�Lockdown doesn�t mean that offices and markets are closed. It means people will have to stay indoors. In case they want to procure any stuff, they can go to their nearby groceries. Police will take appropriate action in case of violators and no casual approach will be tolerated,� the minister said, adding that if a state is going for an eight-day lockdown it means something serious has happened and the citizens need to cooperate.