Tamil Nadu stops inter-district travel from tomorrow following spike in COVID-19 cases

Published : June 24, 2020 21:11 IST

A private bus that arrived from Pallapatti in Karur district at the Corporation Central bus stand in Erode in early June when private buses were not allowed to operate. Photo: M. GOVARTHAN

Even as new COVID-19 cases increase with each passing day in Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced an abrupt suspension of inter-district travel from June 25. Tamil Nadu first entered a lockdown exactly three months ago, on March 24, and has seen a spike in infections through the series of lockdowns.

The decision on the travel restriction came after a marathon meeting the Chief Minister had with District Collectors and other top officials. Some District Collectors wanted curbs in movement of people to be enforced strictly at least for a short period to bring down the infection spread. But critics of the move say there is no scientific evidence to show that a four-day (implemented in Chennai earlier) or seven-day (being implemented in Tamil Nadu now) or 12-day lockdown (in force in Chennai now) will curb the spread of the disease. This has not prevented the Tamil Nadu government from announcing crippling lockdowns.

Earlier, the restriction on movement was limited to Chennai, with the government issuing e-passes for emergencies such as death and health-related issues to travel to destinations outside Chennai. The rest of Tamil Nadu was divided into zones and travel was permitted only after obtaining e-passes. The government had also allowed public transport to operate.

Now, travel will be sanctioned only for emergencies. All other travel, including those relating to businesses that are already in operation, will face problems unless employees are housed on their premises. Owners of several MSMEs have expressed concern over the new restrictions and have requested the government to allow their employees to travel to and from work. "As an MSME businessman we are already in a very huge problem with lack of orders, labour shortage. Payment dues, which are not paid, as the customers stating this lockdown as an excuse," Vinodh Kumar, a businessman, noted on Twitter.

In Tamil Nadu, the total number of cases today was 2,865, with Chennai accounting for 1,654 of them. The total death count today was 33, a government release said. On June 23, the number of new cases was 2,710, and 37 people died. The total number of infected persons in the State jumped to 67,468.

Apart from the 12-day lockdown imposed in Chennai, which ends on June 30, the government announced a lockdown of Madurai, from June 23, for seven days. This was because of spikes in new infections. Many viewed this as a knee-jerk reaction by administrators, which, they alleged, the Chief Minister unquestioningly consented to. In yet another reaction to a spike in Theni district, the administration announced a full lockdown from 6 p.m. on June 24 until further orders. Essential services will be maintained, according to the announcement.