In his meeting with the Chief Ministers of the states and the heads of union territories, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked them for a blueprint for exiting the lockdown. The consensus that emerged from the meeting was that the time was still not ripe for lifting of the lockdown. The PM at the same time batted for the graded exit from the Coronavirus induced economy. So, he highlighted the significance of green zones in restarting economic activity. He also underlined that the full resumption of rail travel would not be possible, stressing at the same time, the use of technology in imparting education.
India, the PM added, faced two challenges: one, reducing the transmission rate of the coronavirus disease and resuming economic activity slowly. As regards the former, he emphasised that social distancing remained the “biggest weapon” against the virus till a vaccine was found.
Some states like Punjab and Assam echoed the PM’s line on lockdown, seeking its extension, albeit in a slightly relaxed form, till the curve was flattened. The meeting lasted over six hours and all chief ministers got an opportunity to speak on the extension of the lockdown. A majority of the CMs urged continuation of the lockdown in containment zones while relaxing it elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Indian Railways has issued guidelines for passenger services that are resuming on Tuesday, asking those boarding the special trains to reach stations at least 90 minutes in advance while also advising them to carry their own food.
The number of cases in India has crossed 70,000 of which more than 22000 have recovered and around 2300 have died. This shows the challenge facing India is getting bigger, albeit the number of patients is still smaller given the size of the country’s population.
Also, any decision to reopen the economy will require the government to ramp up testing and tracing protocols to avoid the proliferation of new Covid-19 clusters. Government will have to expand testing and also ensure there are no fresh outbreaks in major urban centres. And this is being done now. The testing capacity has been scaled up to 95000.
However, the upcoming week will be crucial in terms of the trajectory of pandemic in the country in the country. A diminishing number of cases will make it easier to plan an exit strategy. And in any case, the government can’t ignore the growing urgency to reopen the economy. And to start with the best strategy would be to considerably ease the lockdown from the least affected areas of the country.
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