BH CORRESPONDENT, New Delhi: At least 10 chief ministers of states including West Bengal, Punjab, Delhi, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, have asked for the lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic to be extended during a video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.
“I am available 24×7. Any chief minister can speak to me and give suggestions (on COVID-19) anytime. We should stand together shoulder-to-shoulder,” Modi assured the chief ministers, his face partly covered with a cotton scarf, acting as a homemade mask.
The Prime Minister took feedback from the chief ministers on whether the three-week lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus should end on Tuesday. The coronavirus pandemic has killed 239 and infected over 7,400 in India.
“The decision to continue the lockdown should be taken on a national level,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said. “If the states decide the length of the lockdown on their own, then the fight against the coronavirus won’t be effective,” he said, adding, “If the lockdown is eased, all kinds of transport, either rail or road, should not be allowed.”
The Union Health Ministry gave a presentation during the video conference. Then one by one the chief ministers spoke with Modi. Many of them suggested that the lockdown should be uniformly enforced across the country to maximise its effectiveness, instead of states taking a call on their own.
Odisha and Punjab have already announced an extension of the lockdown. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the pandemic that originated from China in December “is the biggest threat that the human race has faced in more than a century…Life will not be the same ever”, Patnaik had said on Thursday.
PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown. Today, India’s position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is imp to extend it
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) April 11, 2020
The Bihar government in a letter to the Centre has raised no objection to extending the lockdown; however, it wants an exception for rural construction and flood relief work to continue. Bihar saw massive floods last year and rebuilding projects are still going on.
The lockdown will continue till April 30th. Instructions about examinations in schools, universities, allowing industries to be operational, will be given soon. I request you to not panic.
— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) April 11, 2020
Sources say the lockdown may be extended but with many changes this time around. Interstate movement will remain restricted, except for essential services. Schools, colleges and religious institutions are likely to stay closed.
Given the massive economic fallout of the prolonged shutdown, some sector specific relaxation is likely to be allowed, sources say, with social distancing norms.
Other countries that have experimented with easing lockdowns in a staggered manner have been cautious about re-emergence of the novel coronavirus in areas declared free of COVID-19.
With Agency inputs