NEW DELHI: The nearly month-long first phase of Unlock1 ends Tuesday. While all eyes are now on what the fresh guidelines by the Centre would be, state governments are aiming at more relaxations, particularly in sectors related to commercial activity. Ramping up of testing capacity as well as medical facilities to combat the spread of covid-19 pandemic is also planned.
Over the last fortnight, states have either ordered complete extension – like Jharkhand and West Bengal till 31 July – or put certain more affected areas under stricter lockdown – like Guwahati in Assam for two more weeks, Tamil Nadu in some of its worst affected districts including Chennai till Tuesday.
"We are trying to carry out at least 20,000 tests everyday and this is a significant increase as earlier it was around 15,000. Our experience tells us that while we have to remain extremely vigilant, economic activities should restart but we are not in favour of allowing malls and market complexes and other public places that can hold large gatherings to open up just yet," said a cabinet minister in the Uttar Pradesh government.
Even in states or parts where lockdown continues to be in effect, with the exception of containment zones, earlier relaxations are continuing so as to spur local economic activity. State governments feel more needs to be done to check inter-state travels.
“Earlier this week, we have relaxed opening up of malls, restaurants and hotels while also making way for intra-state passenger bus travels. Our view is that inter-state travel needs to come under greater scrutiny. The centre needs to be stricter in its view over such travelling from one state to another," a senior official from Chhattisgarh said requesting anonymity.
Similar views were echoed by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee earlier this week when she urged the Union government to stop international repatriation flights and domestic flights to capital Kolkata from high covid-19 prevalence states till 31 July. Banerjee said screening protocols at airports and institutional quarantine norms not being adhered to is leading to increase in case numbers. Interestingly, states like Karnataka have ordered lockdown only on Sundays to avoid large gathering of people.
"Our primary concern is to check the number of cases, increase testing, and provide food and employment to those who have come from other states. Bihar is now testing up to 8,200 tests everyday and we want to increase it more. Precaution is the only way to control coronavirus in the absence of a medicine. While life is returning to normal at a slow pace, we want people to remain extra vigilant and follow social distancing rules. We are not keen to immediately start big commercial complex, film theatres or allow large public gatherings," a Cabinet minister in Bihar government said.
States are also focusing on the need to ramp up testing and readying medical infrastructure to take on the recent surge in cases. Addressing a Facebook live session of ‘Ask Captain’, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh had said that while decision on lockdown will depend on the situation in place but added that the state’s testing numbers were lower compared to others like Delhi.