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Extending lockdown very much on the table

Centre considering option, final decision awaited

By PTI in New Delhi
  • Published 7.04.20, 7:25 PM
  • Updated 7.04.20, 7:25 PM
  • 2 mins read
Homeless women sit outside a closed shop during the nationwide lockdown, imposed in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, in Guwahati, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. PTI

The Union government is thinking of extending the nationwide lockdown beyond April 14 to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic following requests from several states and experts, government sources said, but clarified on Tuesday that a final decision on was yet to be taken.

Joint secretary in the Union health ministry Lav Aggarwal said, “No decision on extending lockdown as yet (taken), please don’t speculate.”

India is currently under a 21-day lockdown since March 25, with only essential services exempted, to contain the fast-spreading virus, which has claimed more than 75,800 lives globally and afflicted over 13.5 lakh people across 183 countries.

“A lot of state governments as well as experts are requesting the Central government to extend the lockdown. The Central government is thinking in this direction,” a source said, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked countrymen to be ready for a long battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chairing a meeting of the council of ministers through video conferencing on Monday, Modi had clearly indicated that the lifting of the lockdown in one go was very unlikely. The Prime Minister also asked ministers for suggestions on whether the restrictions should be lifted sector-wise or district-wise, a source said.

Reiterating that lockdown measures and social distancing norms need to go hand in hand, Modi also told ministers to popularise the Aarogya Setu app in rural areas and grassroots institutions.

Several chief ministers have favoured the extension of the lockdown in the country to contain the fast-spreading virus, as the number of Covid-19 cases climbed to 4,421 and the death toll touched 117.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his government would extend the lockdown if the need arises, while his counterpart in Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot said the state could not withdraw the lockdown immediately, and that it had to be done in a phased manner.

In a statement to mark two weeks of the lockdown, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said the next one week of the lockdown was “critical” for evolving an exit strategy as the data regarding the spread of coronavirus would have a bearing on the decision to be taken by the government.

He also appealed to the public to abide with whatever decision is ultimately taken by the government and cooperate in the same spirit that has been evident so far, “even if it meant to continue with some degree of hardship beyond April 14”.

On Monday, Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao had said he would appeal to Prime Minister Modi to extend the lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Also Uttar Pradesh chief secretary R.K. Tiwari said, “there is still time for the lockdown and we will review the situation and then decide” on lifting it.

The government has stressed that social distancing was the only way to check the spread of the virus. And a lockdown is considered to be the best way to keep people indoors.

Inter-state travel by public transport, including trains and buses, is banned, and so is domestic and international air travel.