India

Prepare 'graded plan' to open up areas that aren't COVID-19 hotspots: PM Modi to ministers

Prepare 'graded plan' to open up areas that aren't COVID-19 hotspots: PM Modi to ministers
PM Modi said the government must work on war-footing to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on the economy. (File)

As India entered the 13th day of its 21-day lockdown imposed to curb coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday asked Union ministers to prepare a “graded plan” to slowly open up areas that have not emerged as hotspots of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the council of ministers via video-conferencing.

On COVID-19’s impact on the economy, PM Modi said that the government must work on war-footing to mitigate the effects, adding that ministries should prepare a business continuity plan, according to an official statement quoted by PTI. “He noted that a graded plan to slowly open departments where hotspots aren’t existing should be made,” the statement said.

Over 80 per cent of the total positive COVID-19 cases in the country have been traced to 62 districts. Government sources say restrictions are likely to continue in these districts after the nationwide lockdown ends on April 14.

Before this too, the Prime Minister, during an interaction with Chief Ministers last week, had asked them to “formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once the lockdown ends”.

Modi had suggested that some days could be earmarked for vehicles, other days for cyclists, and that fewer people should be in offices. He told the Chief Ministers that the country may need to enforce social distancing at least until Diwali.

One of the concerns of the authorities is that once the lockdown is lifted, there could be a sudden surge of people on the roads, putting to waste the recent social distancing measures.

Within the central government, “a limited lockdown” plan seems to be gaining ground. But what forms these “limits” would take depends on a host of factors, the key being the extent and nature of the spread of coronavirus. One opinion currently within the government seems to be that while it may not be possible to reach a zero-new-case situation by April 14, the best option would be to focus on specific “pockets” to contain the spread.

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