India’s lockdown extended until May 3 (updated)

New Delhi (IANS): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced that based on the suggestions of the state governments and experts, the nationwide lockdown has been extended until May 3. Earlier, a 21-day lockdown was imposed in the country which was in effect till April 14.

In his address to the nation he told the states: “You will be monitored till April 20 and conditional reprieve may be given on how well you perform”.

“The fight against corona will be more strictly enforced in the next one week. By April 20, every town, every police station, every district, every state will be evaluated on how well lockdown is being followed or which areas have been able to protect itself from corona,” he added.

This assumes significance in the backdrop of multiple videos of violation from across India emerging on social media. In fact, the Home Ministry has already sent two warnings to the West Bengal government for not seriously enforcing the shutdown where it alleged religious congregations to assembly at market places in few areas of Kolkata were being allowed by the Mamata Banerjee government.

Modi said, “Areas that will succeed in this litmus test — will not be in the hotspots and will be less likely to turn into a hotspot…there can be some necessary activities allowed from April 20.”

Calling it an “agni pariksha”, the Prime Minister said India has fared way better because of the ongoing shutdown that was scheduled to end on Tuesday night but now stands extended.

Modi argued, there is no alternative to strict adherence to social distancing norms which can be attained through staying indoors. He even invoked Ambedkar, Tuesday being his birthday, and the iconic phrase of the Indian constitution he wrote – “We the People” – to stress that it’s a common fight and needs to be won together. As of Tuesday morning, India has 8,988 active corona cases and 339 related deaths.

The Prime Minister added that by Wednesday, a detailed guideline will be issued by the Centre. Making a case for a unified fight, he added that the Centre and the states are working in tandem to to lessen difficulty. He assured there are enough food grains in stock for India, and there was no need to worry.

He asserted while India’s testing of suspected Corona patients has significantly gone up, it has simultaneously ramped up its corona infrastructure. “We have one lakh [100,000] beds and there are 6,000 hospitals only for corona-infected patients,” he said.

Making a global comparison to suggest how strict and early measures helped India arrest the surge, Modi said: “India started screening at airports even before we had one corona positive patient in India. Even though we had 550 cases, India took a big decision to completely shutdown India. We didn’t wait for the problem to erupt.”

Modi said saving lives is more important than acknowledging its economic consequences. However, to make the impact bearable, Modi urged all to feed the hungry, look after the ailing and old and appealed to employers against pay cuts or laying off during this “difficult time”.

While he himself appeared wearing a homemade mask, he urged all Indians to wear one as well. As India continues to report bizarre incidents where doctors or police personnel are being targeted, sometimes in the most brutal way, as it recently happened in Punjab, Modi appealed to the people to respect the “coronawarriors,” for whom he earlier had urged Indians to clap and light candles for.

MEANWHILE, the WHO on Tuesday welcomed Modi’s announcement on the extension of the nationwide lockdown till May 3 due to coronavirus scare.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for South-East Asia of the World Health Organization, said that a six-week nationwide lockdown to facilitate effective physical distancing, coupled with expansion of core public health measures, will benefit India in combating the novel coronavirus.

“The WHO commends India’s timely and tough actions to stop COVID-19. It may be early to talk about the results in numbers. About a six-week nationwide lockdown to facilitate effective physical distancing, coupled with expansion of core public health measures such as detection, isolation and tracing contact of COVID-19 positive people would go a long way in arresting the virus spread,” said Dr Khetrapal in a statement.

“Despite huge and multiple challenges, India has been demonstrating unwavering commitment in its fight against the pandemic. In these testing times, the action lies as much with the communities as with the authorities and the health workforce. It is indeed time for each and every one to contribute their best and together beat the virus.”

The total number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in India climbed to 10,363, with 1,211 new cases and 31 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the data of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday.

Of these 8,988 are active cases, 1,035 individuals have recovered and since discharged from hospitals, one person migrated to another country and 339 people succumbed to the disease.