New Delhi: India will remain under lockdown until May 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday as the number of coronavirus cases crossed 10,000 despite a three-week shutdown.
In a 25-minute televised address, the PM said the containment measures have produced a significant outcome in containing the infection so far, and the challenge was to stop the virus from spreading to new parts of the country.
"Till May 3, every Indian will have to stay in lockdown. I request all Indians that we stop the coronavirus from spreading to other areas," he told citizens.
Laying the roadmap for the gradual easing of restrictions, Modi said the lockdown can be relaxed after April 20 in coronavirus-free districts to allow essential activities.
But for the next one week, the implementation of the lockdown would be even stricter, he said, adding that every town, district and state will be closely observed after which the decision on relaxation will be taken.
“We will make a note of the places that have successfully prevented the spread of Coronavirus and in such areas from April 20 we will give permission to resume some important services," Modi said.
But these permissions will be subject to continued strict observance of the social distancing norms and will be withdrawn if guidelines are ignored or if coronavirus spread is detected, he added.
Modi spoke as latest health ministry data showed the number of people infected with coronavirus had reached 10,363, with 339 deaths.
He said India has managed to contain the pandemic well compared to many developed countries due to its holistic approach in dealing with the crisis and sacrifices made by people of the country in the fight produced tangible results.
"The nation has benefited greatly from social distancing and lockdown. If we only look at it from the economic standpoint it looks expensive – we’ve had to pay a huge cost, but before the lives of Indians this has no comparison,” he said.
Modi offered no immediate relief to the millions of people who have lost their jobs because of the shutdown, but said he felt their pain. The interest of poorer sections of the society, including daily-wagers, will be taken up as top priority along with the interests of farmers who have to harvest the rabi crop, he said.
The PM also sought the support of the people in seven areas, including taking care of elderly people, maintaining social distancing and helping the poor and downtrodden.
Highlighting the steps his government had taken in fighting the deadly virus, Modi said India has dealt with the situation better than many developed nations with "limited resources". He said along with containment through lockdown, health infrastructure has been improved by leaps and bound.
He said labs have come up, beds have increased and more than 600 hospitals are working for coronavirus treatment. These facilities are being added upon every day.
"India's fight against coronavirus is going on very strongly," Modi said, adding that there is adequate stock of medicines and rations in the country.