Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation tomorrow at 10 am on the coronavirus lockdown, after requests from states to extend it. The Prime Minister is widely expected to announce an extension of the lockdown till April 30, but with measures to restart the economy.
During his meeting with 13 Chief Ministers on Saturday, PM Modi had agreed that a longer lockdown was necessary to fight the highly contagious COVID-19, which has infected over 9,000 in India, but had talked about saving livelihoods as well as lives.
There are concerns that India’s economy, which was already growing at its slowest pace in six years, will take a severe hit amid the lockdown, with unemployment rising to record levels. The restrictions have put millions of poor people out of work and hit small shops and industries hard.
There is a proposal to mark districts as red, orange and green based on the intensity of the Covid 19 infection.
Officials say around 400 districts, which are largely unaffected, can be in the green zone where agriculture, construction and manufacturing activities can begin while keeping social distancing in mind.
The suggestion is to continue a complete lockdown or partial restrictions in the districts affected by coronavirus.
PM Modi indicated in the four hour meeting that while saving lives is priority, the economy also needs to restart. “Jaan bhi, jahaan bhi (both life and economy are important),” he told the Chief Ministers, compared to what he had said three weeks ago while announcing the total nationwide lockdown – “Jaan hai toh jahaan hai (the world exists if life exists).”
Though there was nothing official after the meeting, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had tweeted: “PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown. Today, India’s position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is important to extend it.”
Most chief ministers who attended the video conference pointed out that they may not have the massive resources needed to deal with a spurt in COVID-19 cases if the lockdown is removed sooner. The chief ministers asked the centre for relief packages.
Industries, construction work and agriculture activities are likely to be allowed in a graded manner.
India has 9,152 coronavirus cases, including 308 deaths.
Four states, Telangana, Maharashtra, Punjab and Odisha, have already extended the coronavirus lockdown till April 30. Uttar Pradesh has announced that government-related construction activities will start from tomorrow.
Last month, the Prime Minister had addressed the nation twice. On March 19, he had called for a ”janta curfew” on March 22, a Sunday. On March 24, he announced the 21-day nationwide lockdown to fight the deadly virus, which has infected 1.8 million worldwide.