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NEW DELHI: Punjab on Friday extended the covid-19 lockdown to 1 May, after a decision by the state cabinet. It is the second state to do so after Odisha, which has extended the lockdown till 30 April.

“Given the seriousness of the situation arising out of #Covid19, Cabinet has decided to extend lockdown & curfew till 1st May. These are difficult times & I appeal to all to #StayHomeStaySafe & strictly observe health safeguards as you have done so far, for which I am thankful," Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh said in a post on Twitter after the state cabinet meeting on Friday.

The state cabinet was unanimous in its decision on extending the lockdown.

"Personally I think lockdown should continue but we have a meeting today evening with my cabinet colleagues in which we will assess the situation and take a final call," Singh had said earlier in the day.

Punjab has seen a spike in the number covid-19 cases in the past few days, pushing the total in the state to 132 so far, with 11 deaths.

Observing that farmers have been facing hardships because of the lockdown, the chief minister said the state government will allow district-wise exemption to ensure rabi crops are harvested on time.

“Decision to extend curfew aimed at checking community spread of #COVIDー19 & prevent overcrowding at Mandis in the light of the ensuing wheat harvesting/procurement season: #PunjabCabinet @capt_amarinder #PunjabFightsCorona," Raveen Thukral, media advisor to the chief minister posted on Twitter.

Thukral added that a 15-member multi-disciplinary task force will be set up to formulate exit strategy for gradual relaxation of lockdown in Punjab which will submit its report in 10 days, while another task force is being set up for quick upgradation of hospital infrastructure in the state.

Punjab's move to extend lockdown is significant because it comes a day ahead of a meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with chief ministers to assess the situation on the ground and take a decision on extending the lockdown.

Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana have called for extending the lockdown by at least a fortnight.

The 21-day lockdown, scheduled to end on 14 April, was imposed to contain the spread of covid-19 in the country. But as of this morning, India had 6,412 cases of novel coronavirus infections, with death toll at 199. Of the total cases, 504 have been cured/discharged.

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