Covid-19 in India: Common, staggered lockdown exit plan needed, says PM Modi

NEW DELHI: Indicating that there is need for a coordinated approach to lifting of restrictions after the national lockdown ends on April 14 to ensure that the gains of social distancing and isolation in the fight against
Covid-19 are not lost, Prime Minister
Narendra Modi on Thursday asked chief ministers to consider a common exit strategy once the lockdown ends.

“It is important to formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once lockdown ends,” Modi said, urging state chief ministers to brainstorm and send suggestions. His comments could indicate the Centre may seek to keep hot spots or risk zones for the disease under restrictions. It can point to a stock-taking at the end of the lockdown as Modi said the global situation remained far from satisfactory and he cautioned about a possible second wave of the virus’s spread in some countries.

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Asserting that the common goal for the country was to ensure minimum loss of life, Modi said in the next few weeks, testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine should remain the areas of focus. Home minister
Amit Shah, health minister Harsh Vardhan and defence minister
Rajnath Singh were with the PM.

The PM highlighted the necessity of maintaining supply of essential medical products, availability of raw materials for manufacture of medicines and medical equipment.

“It is necessary to ensure availability of separate, dedicated hospital facilities for Covid-19 patients. To increase the availability of doctors, states should tap into the resource pool of Ayush doctors, organise online training and utilise paramedical staff, NCC and NSS volunteers,” Modi suggested.

He urged chief ministers to set up crisis management groups at district level and appoint surveillance officers. He said data must be taken from accredited labs for testing — this will ensure congruence in data of district, state and Centre and called for a staggered release of funds to beneficiaries under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana to avoid crowding at banks.

Though the government has given some relaxation from lockdown to harvest crops, the PM said it was necessary to continuously monitor and maintain social distancing as much as possible. He asked the states to think of other platforms for procuring grains apart from APMC, and explore the possibility of creating pooling platforms for rural areas, like that in ride-sharing apps, which can be used for this purpose.

Chief ministers appreciated the PM’s decision for a lockdown which has helped check the spread of the virus in the country. They mentioned their efforts of maintaining social distancing, tracking suspect cases, identifying and quarantining suspect cases arising from the
Nizamuddin markaz, containing community transmission, boosting medical infrastructure and strengthening the medical workforce.

Shah talked about the need to implement lockdown more strictly in some states and the importance of effective district-level implementation of the guidelines issued by the Centre. The health secretary explained the rise in number of cases in India, spread of cases from Nizamuddin and preparations to tackle medical cases arising out of further spread of the virus.

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