Religious Centres, Public Places That May Attract Large Gatherings Likely to Remain Under Close Watch

New Delhi: Religious centres and public places having potential to attract large gatherings will remain under close watch irrespective of whether the government extends the 21-day lockdown or not, official sources said on Tuesday.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) tasked with monitoring the overall situation in the country arising out of the coronavirus pandemic.

The GoM also briefly discussed possible scenarios after April 14, when the current spell of the lockdown will come to an end.

It recommended measures to enhance testing facilities for coronavirus infection in medical laboratories, the sources said.

Opposition leaders as well as leading healthcare experts have been pressing the government to ramp up infrastructure to increase coronavirus tests across the country to have a realistic assessment of the situation arising out of the pandemic in India.

The meeting was chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by several key members of the Union Cabinet including Home Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

The GoM also recommend monitoring of the public places like religious centres and malls through surveillance drones, the sources said, adding they will not be allowed to resume normal functioning anytime soon.

Thousands of Tablighi Jamaat members gathered at its headquarters in Nizamuddin last month, ignoring warnings by the government against large gatherings.

A number of people who attended the congregation were found to be having coronavirus infection.

A sizeable number of people among them travelled to different states, spreading the infection of the virus.

Hundreds of people were evicted from the headquarters of Tablighi in Nizamuddin.

According to official figures, India has recorded a total of 4,421 positive cases of coronavirus and 117 deaths.

The GoM also expressed gratitude to thousands of health professionals, security personnel and countless others involved in ensuring smooth operation of essential services and supply chain of food and medicines since the 21-day lockdown came into force on the midnight of March 24, the sources said.

The GoM also appreciated the decision of Union Cabinet to suspend the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years to facilitate additional resources to fight the pandemic.

The ministers were briefed that supply of essential goods was continuing smoothly and no concerns were reported in this regard, the sources said.

Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister DV Sadananda Gowda, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Zubin Irani and Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat were also among those who attended the meeting.

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