- Modi extends nationwide lockdown until May 3.
- The 21-day first lockdown, started March 25, was to end on Tuesday, April 14.
- Some relaxations in non-hotspot areas possible after April 20.
- Centre to strictly monitor implementation of guidelines.
New Delhi: Amid reports of resurgence of COVID-19 global pandemic in China, Japan and South Korea, fears of sudden spike across the Middle East, and slow but steady increase in indigenous cases, India on Tuesday extended ongoing nationwide lockdown for another 19 days, until May 3, to contain infections which has claimed 339 lives and sickened more than 10,000 others.
Globally, the pandemic has claimed over 113,000 lives and infected 18.35 lakh other people since December 2019.
On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation via television and announced an extension to the 21-day lockdown which began on March 25 and was scheduled to end Tuesday. It became necessary as the number of coronavirus continued to surge and gains of the current lockdown needed to be consolidated. New hotspots have emerged in recent past and containment of pandemic remained a top priority.
He said the government will carefully monitor whether the lockdown was progressing strictly across India until April 20 when, depending on implementation at the local level, some relaxations could be considered in areas showing no new hotspots. In particular, this being the harvesting season for the rabi crops, extra care was necessary to keep the farmers safe.
The Centre will issue detailed guidelines in this regard on Wednesday, he said.
Explaining the Centre’s steps taken in the recent past to meet the health emergency despite limited resources, the PM acknowledged the hardships and losses being faced by many but said protection of precious life weighed above all these considerations.
The decision to extend the lockdown followed extensive consultations with experts and after a broad consensus with chief ministers on Saturday. They favoured that the national lockdown should be extended by at least two weeks. Odisha, Punjab and Rajasthan took the lead by extending the lockdown until April-end. Some other states also pushed for resumption of some economic activities like those in the farming sector in areas where no cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported.
Modi’s Tuesday address to the nation was his fourth in a month. He first spoke to an anxious nation on March 19 when the coronavirus pandemic became a serious concern. To prepare the people for what could come next, he had urged the people to observe ‘Janata Curfew’ for March 22. He returned to TV on March 24 to announce a 21-day lockdown across India from March 25 with the objective to break the coronavirus chain of infection.
Ten days into the lockdown, on April 3, the Prime Minister, in a video message, urged the people to light candles, lamps and hold mobile phone torches for nine minutes from 9 pm on April 5 to demonstrate a collective will to fight coronavirus.
Apart from a slow but steady increase in coronavirus cases in India, the pandemic’s resurgence in some countries, as also its asymptomatic growth, may have weighed in decision-making in the government. After the Tablighi Jamaat members carried the virus across India, the number of infections suddenly jumped in several states, including Tamil Nadu where more than 90 per cent of the overall 1,000-plus infection cases came from the Jamaatis alone.
But Modi also hinted at resuming some economic activity and normal but cautious life when he said some relaxations could be considered after April 20 in areas where there were no fresh hotspots, that is no new cases emerged.