India is planning to restart some economic activity after April 14 to help offset the economic damage of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, even as it weighs extending the stringent measure.
Top government officials told Hindustan Times that while the decision on the lockdown is work in progress, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been very clear that it should not sequester millions of people from 161 districts that do not have a single case of coronavirus disease. Not even a suspected case.
The officials pointed to health ministry data that indicated the four worst-affected states are Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. These four states account for nearly half of India’s Covid-19 cases.
It is in this context, one official explained, that the government is looking at a graded response to lifting the lockdown, depending on the Covid-19 cases in the district and the state.
According to top government officials, around 100-odd districts are severely hit by the coronavirus disease and hence there was a need to seal these hotspots. In districts that have isolated instances of Covid-19 cases, many of the restrictions could be lifted to allow economic activity.
In its decision, the Centre will also account for the stand taken by the states such as Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu that have spoken in favour of a two-week extension. For instance, in Delhi, the state administration feels they need two weeks to unearth all the contacts of the Tablighi Jamaat.
Given that health is a state subject, the government may consider the demands of the chief ministers for extension.
“But it will be a nuanced approach,” a senior government functionary aware of the developments, told HT.
Even in these states, he explained, the game plan would be to have containment zones with no movement while allowing economic activity to pick up outside these hotspots with social distancing and masks.
The 21-day lockdown of India’s more than 1.3 billion people is due to end on Tuesday, but the government is widely expected to extend it until the end of the month, with the number of coronavirus cases rising to 9,152 and the domestic death toll reaching 308, on Monday.