Senior officials of the Railways on Tuesday said suspension of train services and other public transport is necessary to ensure social distancing which is the only way to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Fearing a repeat of what happened in Mumbai earlier during the day when thousands of migrants gathered at Bandra railway station hoping to catch trains to their native places, the Northern Railway also issued an advisory.
"The general public is informed that a decision has been taken to not run any trains by Northern Railways till 3rd May 2020 in view of COVID-19, hence such fake news in circulation may not be believed," a Northern Railways spokesperson said.
The official also asked media persons to publicise that Northern Railways is not running any train from Delhi or any where else. Amidst rumours that train services in the country will be resumed from April 15, the Railway Ministry also issued a clarification on Twitter.
"It is clarified that all passenger train services are fully cancelled across the nation till 3rd May 2020 and there is no plan to run any special train to clear the passenger rush. All concerned may please take note of the same and help us in resisting any wrong news in this regard," the railway ministry said on the social networking website.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced extension of the lockdown across the country till May 3 to fight the coronavirus pandemic, saying the measure has produced a significant outcome in containing the infection.
Even as the announcement stalled the prospective functioning of 15,000 passenger trains of the railways, thousands of migrant workers converged near the Bandra railway station in Mumbai hoping to catch trains back to their home states.
While they were dispersed later, questions were raised as to why railways kept bookings open despite the uncertainty over the extension of the lockdown period. Railways, however, said all passengers will get full refund for tickets booked for the cancelled trains as well as for those booked in advance.
"The only way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is by social distancing. Movement of public by public transport system cannot ensure social distancing. It is in this context that trains and buses are not being allowed to run in this crucial lockdown period. Even a single infected person travelling in a train can pass on the infection to thousands of passengers," a senior official of the railways said.
The official said in the early days of the spread of the pandemic, at least 12 cases were reported where those marked with home quarantine travelled in trains and could have spread the virus.
The official further said boarding and deboarding at different stations will continue to aggravate the situation further. India has reported 10,363 cases of the virus and 339 deaths so far.
"With many trains running, this number will get multiplied manifold. Moreover, once this large no of people will reach their respective villages, infection will spread there as well and it all will become unmanageable. The contact tracing will become impossible in such a scenario," the official said, adding that it was in public and national interest that social distancing be ensured at any cost.
Around 15,523 trains run by the railways have been affected due to the lockdown including 9,000 passenger trains and 3,000 mail express services which are run daily during normal circumstances.