Following requests from several state governments and experts, the Centre is considering extending the nationwide lockdown after its ends on April 14 in order to stem the transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), government sources said.
“A lot of state governments as well as experts are requesting the Central Government to extend the lockdown. The Central Government is thinking in this direction,” sources said.
At least seven states, which together have reported 1,367 coronavirus cases—almost one-third of the total cases in India—had indicated on Monday that they would continue to have some restrictions in place even after the 21-day lockdown ends on April 14. As per the latest update from the Health Ministry, the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the country has climbed to 4,421, including 117 deaths.
Reflecting on the development, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said the Cabinet Secretary has already issued a clarification denying that the lockdown would be extended. “It is true that states are asking for extension, as and when decision is taken after discussions, I will let you know,” he said.
While Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao said he was in favour of extending the lockdown in his state, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, UP, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand indicated that they would not fully lift the restrictions after next Tuesday.
Assam, which has reported 26 cases, is planning a registration system to regulate those who wish to enter the state after the lockdown. Maharashtra, which has recorded the maximum number of cases (748) so far, is likely to extend the lockdown in the Mumbai and Pune regions, as well in other hotspots. UP officials said that following the rise in the number of cases in the state linked to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi (159 out of 305), “there is now uncertainty over lifting of the lockdown”.
Rajasthan (274) is working on a “staggered” exit strategy with curbs in “high risk zones”, while Chhattisgarh (10) Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against lifting interstate travel over worries the outbreak will spread. Only Madhya Pradesh (165) struck a different note, as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that wheat procurement will begin from April 15.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a video conference, told Chief Ministers of all states to “formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once the lockdown ends” on April 14. He had also underlined that “in the next few weeks, testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine should remain the areas of focus” in the country’s war against the coronavirus threat.