STATE TIMES NEWS
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday extended the nationwide lockdown for another 19 days till May 3, and proposed certain relaxations after April 20 in places with no hotspots as also which have less likelihood to turn into a hotspot.
In a 25-minute televised address on the last day of the ongoing three-week lockdown, he said extensive guidelines on the second phase of the lockdown will be issued on Wednesday, asserting that his biggest priority is to save lives and minimise the hardships being faced by daily wagers and farmers.
Admitting that the lockdown has come at a huge economic cost, Modi, however, asserted that India has chosen the correct path, and managed to avert to a large extent the damage caused by the pandemic in many countries.
He also noted that most of the state governments, experts and other stakeholders recommended the extension of the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. There are 10,363 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 339 deaths due to COVID-19 so far in India, as per the Union health ministry data.
At least eight states –Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal and Karnataka– have already extended the lockdown till April 30, and Union government sources pointed out that it has been stretched till May 3 as May 1 is a public holiday, and May 2 and 3 is a weekend.
WHO lauds India’s ‘tough and timely’ anti-corona actions
New Delhi: The World Health Organization on Tuesday lauded “India’s tough and timely actions” against the coronavirus spread as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of current lockdown till May 3.
“It may be early to talk about results in numbers, but a six-week nationwide lockdown to facilitate effective physical distancing, coupled with the expansion of core public health measures such as detection, isolation and tracing contact of coronavirus positive people, would go a long way in arresting the virus spread,” said WHO’s South-East Asia Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh. “Despite huge and multiple challenges, India has been demonstrating unwavering commitment in its fight against the pandemic,” she said.
“In these testing times, the action lies as much with the communities as with the authorities and the health workforce,” she added.
“It is indeed time for each and every one to contribute their best and together to beat the virus,” Dr Singh said.
Modi on Tuesday said the implementation of the lockdown will be strictly ensured in coming days to ensure that the virus does not spread to new areas.
The prime minister said a detailed guideline on the implementation of the new lockdown will be announced on Wednesday.
Just a thought of how much harm could have been caused to the country if his government had not followed a “holistic and integrated” approach gives him “goosebumps”, he added.
Amid demands from certain quarters that economic activities be allowed to start, Modi said the lockdown will be strictly implemented for a week, and every area will be evaluated before a decision on allowing some “select necessary activities” will be taken.
“Areas that will succeed in this litmus test, which will not be in the hot-spot category, and will have less likelihood to turn into a hot-spot maybe allowed to open up select necessary activities from 20th April. However, keep in mind, this permission will be conditional, and the rules for going out will be very strict. Permission will be withdrawn immediately if lockdown rules are broken, and spread of coronavirus risked,” he asserted.
Noting that India is in a much better position in terms of the loss of lives than several developed nations, Modi said,”our experience makes it clear that the path we have chosen is the right way”.
While BJP president J P Nadda and Union ministers urged people to support government’s decision, Modi’s address drew strong criticism from the Congress, which termed it as “rhetoric and hollow on specifics”, saying there was no mention of a financial package or concrete steps to revive the economy.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked where is the country’s roadmap to fight coronavirus while his senior party colleague P Chidambaram tweeted “the poor have been left to fend for themselves for 21+19 days, including practically soliciting food. There is money, there is food, but the government will not release either money or food. Cry, my beloved country.”
After Modi’s address, the civil aviation ministry also announced that all international and domestic commercial passenger flights will remain suspended till midnight of May 3. Domestic and international commercial passenger flights were earlier suspended from March 25 to April 14.
The railways also extended suspension of all its passenger services till May 3 while movement of goods and parcel trains will remain operational to ensure essential supplies in various parts of the country.
The railways also said that all counters for booking of rail journey tickets for reserved/unreserved travel at railway stations and outside railway station premises shall remain closed till May 3 midnight.
Modi appeared on television with his face covered with a ‘gamcha’ (Indian stole for men) which he removed at the start of his address. His personal Twitter handle also posted the photograph of him wearing a face cover.
Asserting that India’s fight against the coronavirus has been moving ahead with great strength and resolve, the prime minister lauded citizens for their “restraint and sacrifice” to “save your India”.
“During this time (till May 3), we must continue maintaining discipline in the same way we have been doing so far. A single new patient anywhere, should be a matter of concern for us… Any new hot spot will pose a new challenge,” Modi said.
With critics, including opposition leaders, often questioning his government’s alleged delay and lack of preparedness in tackling the crisis, Modi strongly defended its approach, noting that India began screening travellers from corona-affected countries even before it has reported any case of its own.
“When we had only 550 Corona cases, then itself India had taken the big step of a 21-day complete lockdown. India did not wait for the problem to aggravate. Rather, we attempted to nip the problem in the bud by taking quick decisions,” he asserted.
The prime minister said several countries were at par with India in terms of the number of corona infections but the cases in those countries are 25 to 30 times more now compared to it.
He also sought the support of the people in seven areas, including taking care of the elderly people, maintaining social distancing and helping the poor.
Stressing on the need to follow lockdown guidelines, he said every town, every police station, every district, every state will be tested on how much they are adhering to them before being allowed certain relaxations.
Modi assured citizens that there is adequate stock of medicines and rations in the country, and it has also ramped up its health infrastructure to deal with the crisis.
Noting that global experience shows that 1500-1600 beds are required for every 10,000 patients, he said India has already made arrangements for over 1 lakh beds, with over 600 hospitals dedicated for coronavirus treatment.
The catastrophic effect of the lockdown on the country’s economy and livelihoods of migrants and daily wage workers has triggered concerns, with a number of chief ministers in their video conference with Modi on Saturday seeking relaxation for a number of sectors.
Meanwhile, India Inc supported the nationwide lockdown extension, saying it was necessary to avert a humanitarian crisis, but insisted on the need for a stimulus package to rebuild the economy hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Late last month, the government announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore package aimed at providing relief to those hit hard by the lockdown.
Acknowledging the pain it has inflicted on people, especially the poor, Modi said, “I am well aware of the problems you have faced, some for food, some for movement from place to place and some due to staying away from their homes and families. However, for the sake of your country, you are fulfilling your duties like a disciplined soldier.”
Invoking B R Ambedkar, the architect of India’s constitution whose birth anniversary falls on Tuesday, the prime minister said the nation has paid true tribute to him by displaying its collective strength.
This is the power of “We, the People of India” that our constitution talks about, he said.
The Prime Minister asked people to follow seven steps in the coming days to help the government in its fight against coronavirus.
The seven steps which the prime minister asked people to follow included taking care of the elderly as they are more prone to infection, keeping their faces covered while venturing out and taking care of the poor and the needy who have been effected by the lockdown.
” … if we continue to be patient and follow rules, we will be able to defeat even a pandemic like coronavirus. With this faith and trust, I seek your support for 7 things,” he said in his address to the nation.
Modi on Tuesday announced that the lockdown across the country will be extended till May 3 to fight the pandemic, saying the measure has produced a significant outcome in containing the infection.
The first step was to take special care of the elderly, especially those who have chronic disease. “We have to take extra care of them, and keep them safe from coronavirus,” he said.
The second step,Modi said, was strict adherence to the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ of the lockdown and social distancing. “Please also use homemade face-covers and masks without fail,” he said.
He also urged people to follow the protocol issued by the Ayush Ministry to enhance immunity. “Regularly consume warm water and Kadha’,” he said.
The prime minister also stressed on the need to download the the Arogya Setu mobile app to help prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.
” Take as much care of poor families as you can … try to fulfill their food requirements … Be compassionate towards the people who work with you in your business or industry. Do not deprive them of their livelihood,” he said.
Finally, he said people should pay utmost respect to “Corona Warriors” doctors and nurses, sanitation workers and police force.