Asia - Pacific

India considering lockdown extension

Several states appear in favor of prolonging lockdown as number of coronavirus patients increase

Shuriah Niazi   | 12.04.2020
India considering lockdown extension

NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with chief ministers of all states Saturday to decide a nationwide extension of the lockdown beyond April 14 to check the spread of COVID-19.

But several states appear to be in favor of prolonging the lockdown as the number of patients continue to increase.

Modi interacted with leaders of various political parties in parliament through video conference April 8 and indicated the country should be ready for an extension.

He stressed the situation was akin to a “social emergency” and said several state governments, district administrations and experts have asked for an extension.

Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown March 24, giving the country less than four hours before it took effect. Malls, markets, restaurants, cinema houses and public transport have remained shut.

Almost 17 days later, the health ministry said the country had 6,761 coronavirus cases and more than 200 deaths up to Friday. The virus has reached faraway places and infecting those who have no travel history.

The majority of the state governments want the lockdown extended, except Karnataka and Assam that want to open districts where there have been no cases of the virus.

Many believe the lockdown should be opened in a phased manner, however, there are very few who are of the view that lockdown should be opened for the sake of the economy.

India is the sixth-largest economy in the world but is classified as a developing country.

To fight this virus, the government announced financial assistance of $22.6 billion for poor and migrant workers, including free food grains and cash transfers to different segments, and $2 billion to improve the health system. That is just 0.8% of the country’s GDP.

The government does not have the money to fight the virus or to help the industries and the move is because it is concerned about workers because they are the most affected.

The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) admitted in its survey that 80% of industries are shut due to the lockdown, which will have a direct impact on jobs.

If the lockdown is extended, more jobs will be lost and the government will have to announce a package for the middle class in coming days.

The eastern state of Odisha was the first to extend the ongoing lockdown.

"At this crucial juncture, one has to decide between protecting the lives of people and economic activity. We will recommend to Government of India to extend the national lockdown up to April 30. In addition to this, we will also request the Union Government not to start airline and railway services till April 30," according to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Punjab became the second state where the lockdown was extended until May 1.

"Given the projections for India and the global trend of COVID-19, this is just the start of the war and the situation threatens to get worse over the next few months for India. In the circumstances, no government could afford to ease the restrictions. We have to check the spread of the infections," Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh said, according to an official release.

The government in central Madhya Pradesh is also in favor of extending the lockdown.

According to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the aim of lockdown has not been served yet.

He said things worsened after the exodus of the migrant workers and a religious congregation in New Delhi, leading to a spike in positive cases. Therefore, it is necessary to extend it until at least 30 April.

However, the southern state of Kerala has officially asked the central government to remove the lockdown in three phases by June 30.

Some experts believe when the lockdown is removed, the movement of people will start from one state to another and would lead to the spread of the virus.

Experts say the virus spreads from person to person. If the movement of people begins, India's population is so dense it will be difficult to control infections.

This can be controlled to some extent only by locking down hotspots. But once the movement starts, infections can reach in areas where it is not currently.

According to government sources, the three-week lockdown could be extended until the end of April.

The government is considering a staggered lifting, sources said. Malls, cinema halls, and wedding halls are expected to open in the third week of May, while educational institutions will open at the end of May. Trains and domestic flights are expected to resume by May 15, sources said.

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