Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday announced 19 additional days of lockdown while lauding efforts taken to restrict the spread of the coronavirus. He said there would be strict enforcement of the lockdown until April 20, after which there could be relaxation in specific areas after an assessment of the situation.
“Till April 20, we will monitor how well the districts are doing. In places where the situation is improving, few relaxations will be made,” said PM Modi in his fourth address to the nation in one month.
The Prime Minister did not reveal an economic plan or package for the country despite repeated pleas from chief ministers for urgent measures that could help states tide over the current gloom. He, however, said the government would on Wednesday publish a detailed document with guidelines on how to go about the battle against the pandemic.
As for relaxations during April 20 to May 3, the Prime Minister indicated that the priority would be towards easing the hardships for daily wage earners, the farm sector and essential services. “We will issue detailed guidelines tomorrow. We are making attempts so that farmers and the poor are least affected. With patience, we can defeat the coronavirus,” he said.
After April 20, there will be graded relaxations in areas based on the epidemiological assessment – incidence of the outbreak and the intensity, PM Modi said, adding that restrictions could be reimposed later if there were any fresh cases of COVID-19 found in these areas.
The PM said the strict lockdown over the next six days was to arrest the transmission of the virus to green areas, where there are few or no cases, to minimize the emergence of newer hotspots in areas with disease outbreak.
As of April 12, COVID-19 cases were reported in at least 354 districts, which is nearly every second district in the country. However, 228 of these 354 districts recorded less than 10 positive cases.
A week earlier, the spread was to around 284 districts, and only to 211 districts the week before that.
A strict compliance of lockdown suggested by the Prime Minister could help health workers better trace, test and isolate contacts of patients to avoid the spread of the disease.
PM Modi, who held a meeting with chief ministers last Saturday over the continuance of the lockdown, asserted that it was India’s “holistic and integrated approach” that helped the country fare better than many other nations.
Echoing what he told the CMs – “there is a universe only if there is life” – PM Modi said the economic costs were not as grave as losing lives. “Even when India did not have a single coronavirus patient, authorities were screening passengers from COVID-19 affected countries. We have benefited a lot due to social distancing and 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 said.
“Had we not taken steps at the right time, we cannot imagine where we would have been. It sends a shiver down the spine,” Modi said, reiterating that the path India has chosen – a complete lockdown and maintaining social distancing – was the right thing to do.
He lauded the citizens for the “discipline and cooperation” they extended to avert damage due to the virus.
He acknowledged the hardships faced by the public, but said it also reflected the will of “We, the people of India” to face the adversity posed by this pandemic.
He said that the government has been able to ramp up its health infrastructure to deal with the unfolding pandemic.
He appealed to the public to attend to the elderly, take care of deprived sections of the population and wear masks as individual actions helped the national effort of containing the pandemic.
He evoked Dr B R Ambedkar on his birth anniversary, to say that the collective strength and dedication of the people were the right tribute to the leader.
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