India braces for a possible extension of an altered lockdown

PM will hold meeting via video conferencing with state CMs today, some states have already ordered an extended lockdown


This is no ordinary weekend for India. The good news first. Kerala, has flattened the Coronavirus transmission curve, marking an auspicious beginning to the Malayali New year Vishu, that will be celebrated across the state on Tuesday, April 14. It is also the day to celebrate the harvest festival Baisakhi in Punjab, Bohag Bihu in Assam, and Poila Baishakh or the Bengali New Year. These festivities follow Easter Sunday, celebrated by Christians around the world.

However, as we are still under a national lockdown, which is in place till April 15. The joys of this long festive weekend, for those who can afford to or feel like celebrating, will be restricted to within their homes, families and friends will exchange greetings over the telephone, no one will be visiting bearing traditional greetings and sweets. For those who are in containment zones, or worse in government monitored isolation centres, or undergoing treatment for Covid-19, none of these matter. The lockdown is not a cure, it is an attempt to enforce social distancing that in turn will slow the virus down, till a complete cure, and a vaccine is ready. The sudden announcement of this national lockdown has thrown up many challenges each day, and the transmission of the Coronavirus also continues at many places. As testing increases, more cases will come to light.

According to an update by the ICMR, 1,47,034 individuals were tested, as on April 10 and 6,872 individuals have been tested positive till April 10, 9 PM.

In the middle of this, speculations are flying on a possible extension of the Coronavirus lockdown in India, which is in place till April 15. Honestly, no one expects a complete end to the lockdown, as the Coronavirus pandemic is far from over, and with the low rate of testing in the country, the actual figures of those infected are not yet known. At best, the rules governing the current lockdown may be reversed, with some staggered relaxations that will help selected sectors to limp back to work.

According to a report by NDTV, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may  address the nation soon and announce his final decision on the lockdown. He is expected to consult with Chief Ministers on Saturday April 11, before making a national announcement. The NDTV reports sources hinting at some restrictions that will remain such as, “Interstate movement”. Educational, and religious institutions are expected to stay shut for some more time.

Interestingly Kerala, which according to a Washington Post report has flattened the Coronavirus transmission curve, conditionally relaxed lockdown regulations conditionally relaxed for some sectors including: rubber plantation workers to set up rain guards; “shops repairing refrigerator, washing machine and mixer-grinder (Monday, 10 am-5 pm); and book shops (Tuesday, Friday: 10 am to 5pm)” A circular to this effect was shared  by The Hindu’s S Anandan .



“We hoped for the best but planned for the worst,” Kerala’s health minister K.K. Shailaja was quoted by the Washington Post. Kerala itself has recommended that the lockdown not be lifted at one go. The state has prepared an extensive report recommending a very gradual, phased and practical relaxation of curfew restrictions. The report was prepared by an expert committee of specialists, and eminent citizens brought together by the Kerala Government to recommend effective and citizen-first solutions that are humane and practical.

Some suggestions include: activities that should be additionally permitted to maintain the supply chain of essential services and commodities and minimise hardships to people. These activities include allowing agricultural operations in farms, supply of milk, vegetables, fruits, ice and grain mills, local markets for farm produce, stores selling grocery items, workshops, repair shops etc. It also recommends that individual workers such as cobblers, tailors, laundry services, barbers, be allowed to operate, including domestic helpers to assist the elderly or disabled. They recommend that all those who are allowed to work should  do so with all the safety, social distancing  guidelines in place and they compulsorily have to wear a mask.

According to the NDTV report the relaxations in the lockdown are expected to be put in place in the wake of the “massive economic fallout”, however all social distancing norms will stay in place. That the economic crisis is huge and recovery is a massive uphill task has been hinted by the fact that the “Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has said in its monetary policy report that the outlook for India’s economic recovery has been sharply altered by the coronavirus outbreak” said the report.

Even though the media reports that the Coronavirus outbreak is mostly in around 75 districts, it is in no way an indicator that the spread has been contained and will not spread to the remaining over 600 districts.

The PM himself has said, the “situation in the country is akin to a ‘social emergency’. The country has been forced to take tough decisions, and must continue to remain vigilant. He said that several state governments, district administrations and experts have asked for extension of the phase of Lockdown.” He posted details of his recent video conference  with leaders of all parties on Wednesday, and said  “The priority of the government is to save each and every life.” 

According to the PM many states have sought an extension of the national  lockdown, “suggestions were given by the leaders on extending the Lockdown and on a phased exit after Lockdown ends.” It has already been reported that Odisha and Punjab have announced an extended  lockdown till the end of April. Other states are expected to make similar decisions over the weekend. Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have already sealed a large number of Covid-19 hotspots this week.

Kerala has shown the way to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic that is unpredictable to say the least. The Washington Post quotes the  state’s health minister K.K. Shailaja, saying that the pandemic is not yet over in Kerala, “Now, the curve has flattened, but we cannot predict what will happen next week.”



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