Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced the extension of lockdown till May 3 but hinted at some relaxations post April 20 at places where COVID-19 cases remain under control and no spurt in the cases is reported.
He also urged the people to bear with the situation as restrictions were necessary to stop coronavirus pandemic from acquiring monstrous proportions in the country.
In his address to the nation, Modi assured the people that the country has ample reserves of medicines, food grains and other essential goods and that the supply chain is continuously being streamlined.
Modi also highlighted that India’s holistic and integrated approach towards handling the coronavirus crisis is the reason why the country is in a “well-managed” position with respect to the spread of the disease.
“It is clearly evident from the experience of the past few days that we have chosen the correct path. Our country has greatly benefited from social distancing and lockdown. From the economy’s point of view, it undoubtedly looks costly right now; but compared to the value of the lives of Indian citizens, it is nothing. The path that India has taken within our limited resources has become a topic of discussion in the entire world today,” he said.
“The state governments have also acted with great responsibility, managing the situation round the clock. I have been in constant touch with the states on how the fight against corona should progress in India. Everyone has suggested that the lockdown should be continued. Many states have in fact already decided and declared to continue the lockdown,” the Prime Minister said.
Speaking further he said: “Keeping all the suggestions in mind, it has been decided that the lockdown in India will have to be extended till 3rd May. That means until May 3, each and every one of us, will have to remain in the lockdown. During this time, we must continue maintaining discipline in the way we have been doing till now.”
Prime Minister Modi said that India has so far been able to avert the harm caused by coronavirus to a large extent due to restraint by countrymen.
“People have endured immense suffering to save the country. I am well aware of the problems you have faced – some dut to lack of food, some due to restriction on movement, and others for staying away from home and family. However, for the sake of your country, you are fulfilling your duties like a disciplined soldier. This is the power of ‘We, the People of India’ that our Constitution talks about,” he said.
The Prime Minister asserted that the lockdown was announced in the country at a time when the country had only 550 coronavirus cases.
“When we had only 550 corona cases, then itself India had taken the big step of a 21-day complete lockdown. India did not wait for the problem to aggravate. Rather, we attempted to nip the problem in the bud itself by taking quick decisions as soon as it arose,” he said.
“In such a crisis it is not right to compare our situation with any other country. However, it is also true that if we look at corona-related figures in the world’s big, powerful countries, India today is in a very well-managed position. A little over a month ago, several countries had been at par with India in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases. But today, corona cases in those countries are 25 to 30 times higher than those in India. Thousands of people have tragically died in those countries. Had India not adopted a holistic and integrated approach, taking quick and decisive action, the situation in India today would have been completely different,” he added.
The Prime Minister appealed the people not to let coronavirus spread to new areas. “A single new patient at even the smallest local level should be a matter of concern for us. The tragic death of even a single patient from coronavirus should increase our concern even further,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that there will be an evaluation of places on how much the lockdown is being followed.
“We will have to keep a close and strict watch on the places which run the risk of becoming hotspots. The creation of new hotspots will further challenge our hard work and penance. Hence, let us extend the strictness and austerity in the fight against corona for the upcoming one week,” he said.
“Until April 20, every town, every police station area, every district, every state will be evaluated on how much the lockdown is being followed. The extent to which the region has protected itself from coronavirus will be noted. Areas that will succeed in this litmus test, which will not be in the hotspot category and will have less likelihood of turning into hotspot; may be allowed to open up select necessary activities from April 20,” he added.
Modi asserted that the permission will be conditional and the rules for stepping outside the house will be very strict.
“Permission will be withdrawn immediately if lockdown rules are broken. Hence, we must make sure we ourselves don’t become careless, not allow anyone else to do so. A detailed guideline will be issued by the government tomorrow in this regard.”
He said that the provision of the limited exemption in identified areas after April 20 has been done keeping in mind the livelihood of our poor people.
“Those who earn daily, make ends meet with daily income, they are my family. One of my top-most priorities is to reduce the difficulties in their lives. The government has made every possible effort to help them through Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojna. Their interests have also been taken care of while making the new guidelines,” he said.
Modi said that there are now more than 220 function testing labs in the country and one lakh beds have been arranged. He said that there are more than 600 hospitals which are dedicated for COVID-19 treatment.
The Prime Minister requested India’s young scientists to come forward and take a lead in developing a vaccine for coronavirus.
On the birth anniversary of the father of Indian Consitution, Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the Prime Minister said that the display of collective strength is a true tribute to him. “Baba Saheb’s life inspires us to combat each challenge with determination and hard work. I bow before Baba Saheb on behalf of all of us,” he added.
Modi also praised the citizens for abiding by the lockdown rules and celebrating festivals with restraint while staying within their homes.
He said that the Central and State governments are working together to minimise the problems of the farmers as there is harvesting season of the Rabi crop.
India’s total number of coronavirus positive cases rose to 10,363 including 8,988 active cases, 1,035 cured/discharged and 339 deaths, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said earlier on Tuesday.