The Centre on Sunday issued an order to all states and Union Territories to ensure that all state borders are sealed. This in effect will prevent migrant labourers from crossing into other states to return to their villages amid the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of migrant labourers across the country have set out on foot to return home after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown starting March 25.

The Centre said in a press release that states have been told not to allow movement of people across cities or on highways. Only movement of goods should be allowed, it said.

“Adequate arrangements for food and shelter of poor and needy people including migrant labourers be made at their place of work,” the Centre said. “Centre had yesterday issued orders for use of SDRF [State Disaster Response Funds] funds for this purpose. Sufficient funds are available with States in this head.”

The government said states have also been told to ensure timely payment of wages to labourers at their place of work during the lockdown and to not cut their salaries. It said landlords should not demand house rent from labourers during this period, failing which action would be taken against them.

“Those who have violated the lockdown and travelled during the period of lockdown will be subject to minimum 14 days of quarantine in government quarantine facilities,” the Centre said.Detailed instructions on monitoring of such persons during quarantine have been issued to states.”

Kejriwal asks labourers not to leave Delhi

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday appealed to migrant workers not to leave the city in droves.

Kejriwal, in a tweet, asked migrant workers to stay where they are, as travelling in gatherings increases the risk of spread of the infection. “The coronavirus will reach your villages and families through you and it will then spread across the country,” the chief minister said. He said it will be “difficult to save the country” from the epidemic if this happens.

“I assure you that the Delhi government has made sufficient arrangements for your food and accommodation,” Kejriwal added. “For now, do not go to your villages in the country’s interest.”

Thousands of migrant labourers were seen walking along the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border on Saturday, to return to their villages in Uttar Pradesh. The Uttar Pradesh government arranged 200 buses for their transport.

Kejriwal had on Friday announced that 325 schools in the national Capital will be turned into temporary kitchens that will offer free lunch and dinner to four lakh people. “So far, we were providing food to 20,000 people daily, the number will now increase to around 2,00,000 from today [Friday],” he said. The number will be doubled from tomorrow, we’ll be providing food to 4,00,000 people daily. No one will sleep hungry.”

On Saturday, the chief minister lamented that despite his requests, migrant workers had been leaving the city.

As many as 39 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in Delhi so far, and two have died, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In Uttar Pradesh, there have been 55 cases but no deaths.