Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held a four-hour meet with at least 13 chief ministers on video conference today, has indicated that the lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic would be extended by two weeks after considering the request of the chief ministers, who preferred a longer containment period. The lockdown was scheduled to end on Tuesday.
PM Modi also marked a shift in tackling the pandemic, from saving lives to saving both lives and the economy. Three week ago, while announcing the lockdown, PM Modi had said, “Jaan hai to jahaan hai (the world exists if life exists).” Towards the end of the meeting today, however, he stressed on “Jaan bhi jahaan bhi (life and economy)” as the lockdown has put severe stress on businesses.
“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 imp to extend it,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted minutes after the meeting.
Odisha and Punjab have already announced an extension of the lockdown. The Bihar government in a letter to the centre has raised no objection to extending the lockdown; however, it wants an exception for rural construction and flood relief work to continue, sources have told NDTV. Bihar saw massive floods last year and rebuilding projects are still going on.
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. All the non-BJP chief ministers asked the centre for relief package.
PM Modi is likely to give a televised address to the nation again to announce the lockdown extension.
Towards the end of the four-hour meet today, PM Modi said he will allow industries to reopen in a graded manner.
“Extend the lockdown. We’re we are not short on infrastructure to deal with coronavirus, but the question is of implementing policies effectively. PM Modi has always welcomed the suggestions of states,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.
“It is important to extend the nation-wide lockdown… We need a common relief policy for rabi (winter) crop,” Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said.