Telangana, Delhi and Punjab Pull Out From Phase-1 of Lockdown Relaxations as Covid-19 Cases Cross 16,000

Three states – Telangana, Punjab and Delhi – decided on Sunday not to ease the lockdown restrictions in line with the Centre’s guidelines to gradually reopen the country and reboot the economy starting Monday.

While Delhi and Punjab governments said there will be no relaxations till the lockdown ends on May 3, the K Chandrasekhar Rao government in Telangana decided to extend the complete lockdown in the state till May 7.

The chief ministers said that after reviewing the ground situations, they have decided not to grant relaxations as the coronavirus cases across the country crossed the 16,000-mark on Sunday and the death toll rose to 519.

Karnataka, on the other hand, has decided to take the wait and watch approach. The state government said there will be no relaxations till Tuesday midnight and a final decision on whether the complete lockdown will be extended till May 7 will be taken at a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

The state’s differing approach comes as the Centre eases a number of restrictions on economic activities and services, in what will be a stiff test of India’s handling of the pandemic, as the government balances how to control the spread of the virus with sending Indians back to work.

The central government had imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world to curb the virus on March 24, but will ease some of the restrictions gradually starting Monday after 26 days as the drastic measures have sent the economy into a tailspin and hit the poorest sections hard.

While the health ministry data suggests that the rate of new infections has tapered, experts have said it is hard to gauge much from the data as India has still only tested a limited proportion of its population, despite testing being expanded in the last fortnight.

Health minister Dr Harshvardhan, at a videoconference with counterparts of G20 nations, said that as a result of the lockdown the doubling rate for infections has gone from 3.4 days on March 17, to 4.4 days on March 25, and is currently about 7.4 days.

Among the activities that will resume from Monday are all agriculture and horticulture-related activities because of the approaching harvest season and the potential of bumper wheat crops, plantation work for tea, coffee and rubber, and industries in rural areas, Special Economic Zones and industrial townships.

Economic activities to be functional will include non-banking financial corporations and micro-finance institutions that have now been marked as essential, while services like electricians, plumbers and repairmen will also be permitted.

Construction, in rural areas, of water supply and sanitation, and laying of power lines and telecom optical fibres and cables will also be allowed, according to the home ministry.

The re-opening, albeit in a limited manner, will be good news for the lakhs of unemployed migrant workers and daily labourers who had been left jobless by the ban on activity under the lockdown.

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