Underlining 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, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Chief Ministers of all states Thursday to “formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once the lockdown ends” on April 14.
He, however, warned that the global situation remains “far from satisfactory” and there was speculation of a “possible second wave of spread of the virus in some countries”.
Interacting with the Chief Ministers via video-conference from New Delhi, the Prime Minister, according to an official statement, said “considering that this is the time to harvest crops, the government has given some relaxation from lockdown, but it is necessary to continuously monitor and maintain social distancing as much as possible”.
He asked the states to “think of other platforms for procuring grains apart from APMC (agricultural produce market committee), and explore the possibility of creating pooling platforms for rural areas, like that in ride sharing apps, which can be used for this purpose”.
In a tweet later in the day, Modi said: “At 9 AM tomorrow morning, I’ll share a small video message with my fellow Indians.”
On the need to maintain social distancing even after the lockdown, Modi, one of the meeting participants said, warned that people should not come out in hundreds on the roads. He suggested that the lifting of the lockdown be staggered, earmarking some days for vehicles, other days for cyclists, and that fewer people should be in offices.
He told the Chief Ministers that the country may need to enforce social distancing at least until Diwali. There was speculation that a second phase of the virus may start and, therefore, social distancing must be followed as a safeguard. He cited the example of Japan where people wear masks, keep sanitising their hands through the year.
Underscoring the importance of coordinated action and the need to avoid overlaps in efforts of stakeholders, Modi said there was need to form crisis management groups at the district level and appoint district surveillance officers. He said data must be taken from accredited laboratories for testing — this will ensure congruence in data of district, state and centre. He said it is “necessary to ensure staggered release of funds” to beneficiaries under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana to avoid crowding at banks.
To increase the availability of doctors, he asked states to “tap into the resource pool of AYUSH doctors, organize online training and utilize para-medical staff, NCC and NSS volunteers”. He said “the common goal for the country is to ensure minimum loss of life” and “in the next few weeks, testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine should remain the areas of focus”. He highlighted the need to maintain supply of essential medical products, availability of raw material for manufacture of medicines and medical equipment.
He said “it is imperative to work on war footing, identify hotspots of the virus, encircle them and ensure that the virus does not spread out”. It is pertinent, her said, to maintain peace and law and order across the country. He said “COVID-19 has attacked our faith and belief and is threatening our way of life”. He appealed to the leaders to reach out to community leaders and social welfare organisations at state, district, town and block levels to build up a united front based on community-approach in the battle against the pandemic.
The Chief Ministers, on their part, underlined the importance of mobilising resources, financial as well as medical, to mitigate the crisis.
According to the official statement, they “appreciated the Prime Minister for taking the bold and timely decision” on the lockdown to check the spread of the virus.
“They mentioned their efforts of maintaining social distancing, tracking suspect cases, identifying and quarantining suspect cases arising from Nizamuddin Markaz, containing community transmission, boosting up of medical infrastructure, strengthening medical workforce, provision of tele-medicine, provision of mental health counselling, distribution of food and other essentials to those in need and taking care of migrant workers,” the statement said.
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