New Delhi: The lockdown enforced by the Centre to arrest the spread of novel coronavirus in the country will continue in hotspots, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told chief ministers in a video conference on Monday.
PM Modi, who was interacting with the heads of states on the way ahead in the fight against the pandemic, said decision on extending the countrywide lockdown would be taken after May 3, when phase 2 ends. However, relaxations would depend on the situation in individual states and curbs would be lifted in districts that have shown improvement.
Assuring chief ministers on the condition of the economy, PM Modi said there was no reason to worry. Home Minister Amit Shah, who was also part of the meeting, said economic activities could not be stopped forever but norms such as social distancing and face masks would become a part of daily life, not just in urban areas but also rural areas.
Sources aware of the deliberations told News18 that more reforms were in the pipeline and would soon be announced by the government. The prime minister is likely to meet Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman amid demands to open up few more sectors of medium and small scale.
The chief ministers who attended the meeting included Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Uddhav Thackeray (Maharashtra), EK Palaniswami (Tamil Nadu), Conrad Sangma (Meghalaya), Trivendra Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand), Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Naveen Patnaik (Odisha).
The meeting also saw some chief ministers raise their concerns. For instance, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar asked PM Modi and Shah to formulate a policy for bringing back people to states. Kumar was under fire when his government refused to bring back students stuck in Kota though UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath gave the nod for the move.
Kumar said his decision was keeping in line with MHA guidelines but questioned how other states were allowed to proceed.
Odisha, meanwhile, has sought an extension of the lockdown for another month. State health minister Naba Das told the media that other states had supported Odisha's demand for one month extension.
This was the fourth video conference of the prime minister with the chief ministers after the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
In his monthly 'Mann ki Baat' radio address on Sunday, the prime minister said the country is in the middle of a 'yudh' (war) and asserted that people have to continue being careful and take precautions.
His note of caution came against the backdrop of the Union government and states relaxing lockdown norms to revive economic activities.
"I urge you not to get overconfident. You should in your over-enthusiasm not think that if the coronavirus has not yet reached your city, village, street or office, it is not going to reach now. Never make such a mistake. The experience of the world tells us a lot in this regard," he said.
Modi referred to a popular Hindi idiom 'Sawdhani hati, durghatna ghati' (accident happens when caution is lowered) to make his point.
The Centre has now allowed neighbourhood and standalone shops, including those located in residential complexes, in urban areas to open during the lockdown. But those in the markets continue to remain shut till May 3.
In rural areas, all shops, except those in shopping malls, are allowed to open. In a late night order on Friday, the Home Ministry also said malls continue to remain shut but markets in rural areas can open.
However, opening of shops located in COVID-19 hotspot and containment zones, sale of non-essential items by e-commerce platforms and sale of liquor continue to be prohibited.
In the last interaction on April 11, several chief ministers had recommended extension of the 21-day lockdown by two weeks, which was slated to end on April 14 earlier. On April 14, the prime minister had announced that the lockdown is being extended till May 3.
Before the lockdown was announced on March 24, the prime minister had interacted with the chief ministers on March 20 to discuss ways and means to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.