The Indian government is set to extend a 21-day national lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus beyond Tuesday, a regional leader said Saturday after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
‘PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown,’ Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a Twitter post soon after Modi held a meeting with chief ministers of India's regional governments.
‘Today, India's position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is important to extend it,’ Kejriwal posted.
The Modi government announced a 21-day lockdown on March 24 to contain a possible surge of new coronavirus cases in the country of 1.3 billion people.
All except those working in health care and providing essential services and commodities were asked to stay at home and flights, trains and vehicular traffic were stopped.
Borders between states were sealed and only movement of essential commodities allowed.
A study linked with the Indian Council of Medical Research showed that the lockdown had slowed the spread of the virus, Health Ministry spokesman Lav Agarwal said at a briefing.
More than 1,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in the past 24 hours taking the total to 7,529, according to Health Ministry data. The number of deaths stood at 242.
Agarwal said if the containment measures were not in place, the number of positive cases could have surpassed 45,000 by now.
The governments of Maharashtra, Delhi, Odisha, Punjab, Delhi and Telangana have already indicated they would extend the lockdown until April 30.
But the chief ministers of Odisha and Punjab also indicated that some measures would be loosened so that farmers so that they could conduct the harvest.
A formal announcement from the federal government on the extension of the lockdown beyond April 14 is expected in the coming days, possibly in an address to the nation by Modi, NDTV news channel reported citing government sources.
Several chief ministers at Saturday's meeting urged Modi to extend the lockdown despite concerns over its impact on India's economy.
The shutdown has deprived millions of daily wages and contractual workers of meagre earnings and has resulted in a mass exodus of migrant workers from urban centres to their villages.
A couple of hundred of migrant workers in the textile industry in the town of Surat in Gujarat state took the streets Friday, pelting police with stones and setting barricades on fire.
‘They were demanding their salaries and permission to go back to their homes,’ deputy commissioner of police Rakesh Barot said. At least 60 protesters were detained.
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