New Delhi: The nationwide lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak in India is likely to continue beyond April 14 as the death toll from the pandemic inched towards 250, with the number of cases reported so far surging past 7,400.
The extension of the lockdown till April 30 was supported by chief ministers of at least seven states in a virtual meeting with Modi on Saturday.
"Most states requested PM to extend the lockdown for two more weeks. The central government is considering this request," said PS Dhatwalia, Principal Spokesperson to the Government of India.
#IndiaFightsCoronavirus #21daylockdown :During the video-conferencing on #coronavirusinindia with state CMs today, most states requested PM @narendramodi to extend the lockdown for 2 more weeks. The Central Government is considering this request.— K.S. Dhatwalia (@DG_PIB) April 11, 2020
Interacting with chief ministers via video conference, the prime minister also said there seems to be a consensus amongst states on extending by another two weeks the ongoing nationwide lockdown, which began on March 25 and was to end on April 14.
Modi said the next 3-4 weeks are critical to determine the impact of steps taken till now to curb the coronavirus spread and urged state governments to ensure strict adherence to the lockdown.
Several chief ministers, including Punjab's Amarinder Singh and Delhi's Arvind Kejriwal, had suggested extending the lockdown at least by a fortnight. Kejriwal later said in a tweet that Modi has "taken the correct decision to extend the lockdown".
The ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 crisis, announced by Modi on March 24, is scheduled to end on April 14.
Sources had earlier told News18 that districts across India identified as hotspots will be locked down more stringently, while unaffected districts and states will be allowed some relaxation but all international health protocols will be followed.
Several hard-hit districts are now emulating the Bhilwara model wherein extensive screening and strict lockdown measures helped bring down the number of coronavirus cases. Speaking to News18, Tina Dabi, SDM of the Rajasthan city, had said the situation could easily have gone “the Italy way” and batted for replicating the model in other virus hotspots.
Sources added that opening up unaffected districts and states will be at the discretion of the state governments.
Punjab, Odisha and Rajasthan have already announced total shutdowns till April-end. Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao, too, had earlier appealed to the PM to extend lockdown, saying the economy can be revived but lives cannot.
Screenshots of the PM’s video conference with chief ministers showed Modi and all CMs wearing masks. At the meeting, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Tamil Nadu's E Palaniswamy urged the PM to extend the lockdown till April 30.
“The decision should be taken at national level, state level decision might not be much effective. Transportation should not be opened be it road, rail or air transport,” Kejriwal said.
The PM told the chief ministers that all their suggestions will be taken into consideration and that the Centre and states are united in this fight.
“I am available to you all 24x7. States and Centre need to work together. All your suggestions will be taken into consideration. We will move shoulder to shoulder as we fight Covid-19 together,” he said.
“If we follow a common strategy, we can defeat coronavirus and the losses that we are incurring due to this crisis,” the PM added.
This is the second such meeting between the PM and chief ministers. During his April 2 interaction with chief ministers, Modi had pitched for a "staggered" exit from the ongoing lockdown.
The World Health Organization, too, has cautioned countries against lifting travel restrictions. The United Nations agency would like to see an easing, but at the same time "lifting restrictions could lead to a deadly resurgence," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference.
He said there had been a "welcome slowing" of epidemics in some European countries - Italy, Germany, Spain and France - but there had been an "alarming acceleration" elsewhere including community transmission in 16 countries of Africa.
The virus has claimed 1,00,000 lives worldwide and more than four billion people are confined to their homes as governments worldwide have imposed never-before-seen measures to halt the disease.
This week, China started to ease months-old lockdown orders in Wuhan, where the outbreak started late last year.