"Any chief minister can speak to me and give suggestions on Covid-19 anytime. We should stand together shoulder-to-shoulder"
Most of the Indian chief ministers has asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a video conference to extended the lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the conference also said, "Any chief minister can speak to me and give suggestions (on COVID-19) anytime. We should stand together shoulder-to-shoulder," reported NDTV.
The chief ministers of Punjab, Delhi, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have asked for the lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic to be extended during a video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi today.
The Prime Minister was seen in a cotton towel mask this afternoon during the video conference as he discussed with the chief ministers the way forward. The pandemic has killed 239 and infected over 7,400 in India. PM Modi took feedback from the chief ministers on whether the three-week lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus would end on Tuesday.
The Health Ministry gave a presentation during the video conference. Then one by one the chief ministers spoke with PM Modi. Many of them suggested that the lockdown should be uniformly enforced across the country to maximise its effectiveness, instead of states taking a call on their own.
The centre last week said people can use homemade, reusable cloth mask as an alternative to retail ones. A set of two pieces would be ideal - one can be washed while the other is in use. PM Modi's gesture today was seen as sending that message across.
Odisha and Punjab have already announced an extension of the lockdown. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the pandemic that originated from China in December "is the biggest threat that the human race has faced in more than a century". "Life will not be the same ever," Mr Patnaik said on Thursday.
The Bihar government in a letter to the centre has raised no objection to extending the lockdown; however, it wants an exception for rural construction and flood relief work to continue, sources have told NDTV. Bihar saw massive floods last year and rebuilding projects are still going on.
In his last video conference with chief ministers on April 2, PM Modi said the centre and states must have a common plan to ensure staggered movement of people after the national lockdown ends. He said it "can't be business as usual" after the lockdown and certain safeguards would have to be taken, according to a government statement.
Sources say the lockdown may be extended but with many changes this time around. Interstate movement will remain restricted, except for essential services. Schools, colleges and religious institutions are likely to stay closed.
Given the massive economic fallout of the prolonged shutdown, some sector specific relaxation is likely to be allowed, sources say, with social distancing norms.
Other countries that have experimented with easing lockdowns in a staggered manner have been cautious about re-emergence of the novel coronavirus in areas declared free of COVID-19.
China's Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in December, is waking from its coronavirus nightmare and loosening tight restrictions on movement and businesses. But full recovery remains hampered by fear of a potential new wave of infections.
Many businesses and all schools are still closed, restaurants aren't allowed dine-in customers, and some neighbourhoods remain sealed off behind barriers in Wuhan.