By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, May 30, 2021: Odisha on Sunday extended the lockdown by 16 days in view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic situation. Lockdown restrictions will remain in force till 5 a.m. on June 17. However, weekend shut downs would continue throughout the third lockdown period.

“We had first imposed lockdown on May 5. During 25 days, the outcome of the lockdown has been encouraging. The TPR (test positivity rate), which was 25% at the beginning, has now dropped to 15%. In many western Odisha districts, the infection level has come down sharply,” said Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra, announcing the extension of the lockdown here.

“We got good result due to timely imposition of lockdown. We did not face the kind of shortages of beds, medicines and oxygen faced by other States. We have increased the number of tests to 70,000. Despite that, there has not been a substantial increase in cases. The TPR is, however, found to be above 25% in the coastal districts,” said Mr. Mohapatra.

“More than 7 lakh people were evacuated when cyclone Yaas hit the State. Though COVID-19 guideline was followed during evacuation, we cannot rule out infections among these people. Hundreds of employees are currently involved in post cyclone restoration works. The COVID-19 situation continues to be critical in the State,” he said.

“Since the TPR has not dropped below 10%, the government has decided to extend lockdown by 16 days till 5 a.m. on June 17. Along with the lockdown, weekend shut down would continue. The government will continue with the exempted activities, relaxations and restrictions followed in the previous lockdowns,” the Chief Secretary said.

The government has also decided to increase the time given to people to buy essential items in the morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. in three districts — Gajapati, Nuapada and Sundargarh — due to the drop in the TPR. In the remaining 27 districts, people are allowed shop for vegetables from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The new lockdown has taken the sheen off the two major festivals, Sabitri and Raja, which fall on June 10 and 16, respectively. As per the lockdown guidelines only shops that deal with essential services can operate between 7 to 11 am, which means that all other businesses, including malls, multiplexes, spas, clubs, restaurants, bars and beauty parlours will be completely shut.

Meanwhile, traders, vendors, shop keepers etc demanded an increase in the relaxation time as the reduced time slot is causing more rush in markets.

“In our attempt to save lives we must not ignore the livelihood of people. The second wave is no doubt more fatal and took away many lives and infected a much larger population than the first wave. It is good that the government is concerned about saving lives but at the same time there should be some attempt to protect livelihood as well,” said Sudhakar Panda, secretary of Odisha Byabasayee Mahasangha.

“I cannot understand the rationale behind opening markets for four hours in a day. People throng in large numbers due to limited time causing overcrowding in the market and making people more vulnerable to the spread of the virus,” said Panda. He urged the government to allow the opening of essential shops from 6 am to 6 pm so that markets will not get overcrowded.

He said of the nearly 20 lakh small businesses in the state, around 16 lakh depend on daily earnings. The trader’s body demanded collateral-free loans for the small traders to help them survive the crisis.

“Like during the first wave, the government should come forward with some financial support for small traders in consultation with local traders’ bodies so that there will be less chance of non-refund of loan,” Panda pointed out.

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