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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Option gaining ground: After 21 days, easing of lockdown curbs, in select areas

India coronavirus lockdown: Within the government, a “limited lockdown” in some areas is an option that seems to be gaining ground, at this point.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Updated: April 4, 2020 12:30:46 pm
Option gaining ground: After 21 days, easing of curbs, in select areas India coronavirus lockdown: A woman in Mumbai spends time by the window during the nationwide 21-day lockdown. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

Nine days into the national coronavirus lockdown, with looming economic distress across sectors, discussions have commenced in the government on the way forward at the end of the 21-day period, including an exit strategy.

Giving a glimpse of one possible option, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Chief Ministers during a video-conference Thursday that it is “important to formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once the lockdown ends”.

He asked the states to brainstorm and send suggestions for the strategy. Within his government, meanwhile, a “limited lockdown” in some areas is an option that seems to be gaining ground, at this point. Read in Malayalam and Tamil

But what forms these “limits” would take depends on a host of factors, the key being the nature of the spread of the virus.

One opinion currently within the government seems to be that while it may not be possible to reach a zero-new-case situation by April 14, the best option would be to focus on specific “pockets” to contain the spread.

Also Read | Rapid antibody tests in hotspots advised, decision left to states

“If we can identify pockets like these across the country — there may be several hundred of them — and if I am reasonably satisfied that the rest of the country can go about their business, then these pockets will remain the only ones left with restrictions,” a highly placed government source said.

India lockdown, 21 days of India lockdown, orimew Minister Narendra Modi, easing of curbs, lockdown impact, coronavirus india, Indian express India coronavirus lockdown: At a shelter home near Nigambodh Ghat, Thursday. Several migrants who tried to leave the city over the last week and were stopped at the border have been directed to government shelters. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

The added advantage of this approach would be that resources can be concentrated on these areas, with rigorous and foolproof surveillance and follow-up action.

What complicates this, sources said, is a sudden surge like the one over the last few days from the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi — about 400 cases so far from nine different states have been linked to that gathering.

Also Read | As growth slows, demand for work under MNREGA shoots to 9-yr high

covid 19, coronavirus, Mumbai dead, Mumbai coronavirus death, Mumbai coronavirus death, indian express India coronavirus lockdown: Mumbai under lockdown. (Express Photo)

In an interview to The Indian Express Wednesday, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria, who is a member of the high-level technical committee of Public Health Experts for COVID-19, explained the issues at stake.

“There are two or three questions there. One, how long should the lockdown continue? Two, should it be throughout the country or, three, (should) there be a graded lifting of the lockdown in certain areas? That is dependent on the data that emerges, in terms of the number of cases, hotspots, and areas in our country which are safe, are protected because of the lockdown, and don’t have a significant number of cases,” he had said.

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India lockdown, 21 days of India lockdown, orimew Minister Narendra Modi, easing of curbs, lockdown impact, coronavirus india, Indian express India coronavirus lockdown: Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with CMs via video-conference Thursday. (ANI Photo)

Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba has denied reports that the lockdown would be extended. But sources said the option of a return to normalcy across the country after April 14 “is on the table but remote”.

“There is little doubt that the virus will not suddenly go into remission at the end of the period. If we are lucky, we would have contained it in some areas, if not, it’s another fight,” said a government functionary. In his meeting with chief ministers, the Prime Minister is learnt to have said that the fight is only just beginning.

The option of extending the lockdown by two weeks has also come up in discussions. “It is an emerging situation, a call has to be taken depending on the situation then, this is not something one can base only on modelling. But medical experts across the board have been advocating a lockdown very strongly. The issue is to see how much the economy can take,” said sources.

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?

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