Punjab joins Odisha to extend the shutdown a day ahead of Modi’s meeting with chief ministers to review steps to contain the outbreak of coronavirus
Pune has already sealed a total of 30 sq. km area and is planning to seal six more slum areas
NEW DELHI :
Several state governments went ahead with plans to extend the nationwide lockdown even as they prepared to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday for a review of measures to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak that saw its single largest spike in infections on Friday.
The number of hotspots, or infection clusters, has swollen to 284 across the country, sparking a containment strategy through strict enforcement of restrictions on movement in these areas. India reported 880 new covid-19 cases on Friday, the highest one-day spike so far. Fatalities rose to 212 with 12 deaths reported in the last 24 hours.
The Union home ministry on Friday directed all states to tighten lockdown measures, with several areas in the country being sealed as containment zones. “The MHA has directed all states and Union territories to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures to fight covid-19, and not allow any social or religious gathering or procession," the ministry said.
Punjab joined Odisha on Friday to extend the lockdown till 30 April, while Kerala and Maharashtra are likely to follow suit for at least some parts.
Maharashtra government officials said restrictions may be extended in Mumbai, which has seen the highest number of covid-19 cases in the state, until at least 30 April. Modi will interact with chief ministers of all states on Saturday via video to take a call on whether to extend or ease the 21-day nationwide lockdown.
“Due to a significant rise in the number of covid-19 cases, the Maharashtra government may consult with the centre on extending the lockdown period," a state government official said.
With over 210 fresh cases reported on Friday, Maharashtra’s total number of coronavirus cases have reached 1,574. Out of the total cases, over half are from Mumbai, India’s financial capital. Neighbouring Pune may extend the lockdown by another 10 days.
“We are waiting for further orders from the government on extending the lockdown, but in my opinion, we would need the entire city to remain under lockdown for at least 10 more days after 14 April to effectively control the spread of coronavirus," said Shekhar Gaikwad, commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
Pune has already sealed a total of 30 sq. km and is planning to seal six more slum areas.
“If not for the entire city, these areas, in which we have more than five covid-19 positive cases, should remain sealed for at least 15 more days after 14 April. We are deploying extensive police force in the containment zones and nearly 400 teams of two people each are conducting door-to-door surveys, so we can admit patients and quarantine suspected cases in time," Gaikwad added.
Despite a plateauing of infection rates, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan is expected to support an extension in Saturday’s meeting. But he is likely to seek certain exemptions, based on regional variations. “We are in no hurry to reopen," Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac told Mint on Thursday. “We will stagger the reopening of the economy. Agriculture will be allowed to open first."
This week, a Kerala task force report submitted to the Union government said the time is not ripe for a full withdrawal of the lockdown. The withdrawal strategy, it said “should be gradual, phased and calibrated to ensure that the caseload is always kept below the (surge) capacity of the healthcare system to deal with it."
“As different states are expected to pass through the peak infection at different timings, it will be useful and important to establish a national co-ordination mechanism so that states could support one another with experience, expertise, equipment and finances," it said.
The Delhi government is also monitoring the situation, but the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is likely to take a decision on an extension only after the meeting with Modi. Chief minister Arvind Kerjiwal told reporters earlier this week that there would be a phased withdrawal of the lockdown. Delhi has identified over 20 hotspots which have been sealed.
Anuja, Nidheesh M.K., Shaswati Das and Neetu Chandra Sharma contributed to this story.
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