Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday extended the nationwide lockdown to May 3 in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. A detailed document with guidelines would be released on Wednesday, he said, adding that attempts were being made to ensure farmers and the poor were least affected.
“The virus is spreading fast. I have held multiple meetings with chief ministers and other authorities to find ways in which we can control the spread with minimum effect on economic growth. Keeping in mind the suggestions and the risks I have received, the lockdown across India will be extended till May 3,” PM Modi said in a 25-minute address to the nation.
PM Modi’s address came on a day when the number of coronavirus cases in India rose beyond 10,000 to 10,363, including 8,988 active cases, 1,035 cured and discharged patients and 339 deaths.
“India has adopted a holistic, integrated approach since the beginning. We have fared better when compared to other countries. Even when India did not have a single coronavirus patient, we were screening passengers from COVID-19 affected countries,” he added. “We have benefited from social distancing and the lockdown. While there have been huge economic costs, we have been able to save many lives. We are on the right path in this fight against the virus.”
He listed seven tasks for the people during the lockdown, including caring for the elderly; practicing social distancing; boosting immunity; downloading the Aarogya Setu application; looking after the needy; ensuring people remain employed; and respecting COVID-19 frontline workers.
PM Modi also warned people against lowering their guard against the virus. “We cannot let our guard down now. The hotspots need to stay alert and the places which are emerging as new hotspots need to be closely monitored,” he said, adding that stringent measures will be enforced henceforth.
“Till April 20, we will monitor how well the districts are doing. In places where the situation is improving, few relaxations will be made,” PM Modi said. Restrictions are expected to be re-imposed in these areas if the situation deteriorates later.
In a request to scientists and youngsters, PM Modi sought ideas for a vaccine. “We have limited measures to fight this battle. I have a request to the scientists and youngsters of this country to try and come up with a vaccine,” he said.
PM Modi thanked people for cooperating in the fight against the pandemic. “It is because of your cooperation that we have been able to deal with this pandemic successfully. Despite the sufferings, you are engaged in this fight.
“For the welfare of our country, you are involved in this fight like a dedicated soldier. I would like to thank you. In our Constitution, a line reads ‘We the People’. This is what it signifies. This is a befitting tribute to Dr. Ambedkar,” he said.
Last week, in a four-hour meeting between PM Modi and state chief ministers, it had been decided that the national lockdown should be extended by at least two weeks till April-end.
After the meeting, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office signalled a nuanced change in strategy from saving lives a month ago to saving lives as well as livelihoods now. “He (Prime Minister) underlined that the motto of the government earlier was ‘jaan hai to jahaan hai’ but now is ‘jaan bhi jahaan bhi’,” the PMO statement said.
In the meeting, PM Modi is learnt to have pitched for Aarogya Setu – an app to track and alert those who come physically close to Covid-19 cases, and referred to the possibility of it being an e-pass which could facilitate travel from one place to another.
Last month, PM Modi had addressed the nation twice — on March 19 and March 24. On March 19, he had called for “resolve and restraint” to fight coronavirus pandemic. He had also announced a ‘janta curfew‘ on March 22, a Sunday.
On March 24, PM Modi had announced the 21-day nationwide lockdown to check the spread of the virus. In a video message on April 3, Modi had urged people to switch off the lights at their homes and light lamps, candles or mobile phone torches for nine minutes at 9 pm on April 5 to display the country’s “collective resolve” to defeat the coronavirus.
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