Curfew passes distributed to the essential service providers in Delhi during the lockdown period will remain valid till May 3 as a nation-wide lockdown was extended on Tuesday (today). The 21-day country-wide lockdown, in order to contain the spread of coronavirus, was to end on Wednesday (April 15) after PM Modi announced it on March 24. However, the prime minister today in his televised address to the nation extended the lockdown till May 3 -- for 19 more days -- saying social distancing is the only way to pass the "agni pariksha" (fire test).
In a 25-minute televised address on the last day of the ongoing three-week lockdown, he said extensive guidelines on the second phase of the lockdown will be issued on Wednesday, asserting that his biggest priority is to save lives and minimise the hardships being faced by daily wagers and farmers.
Admitting that the lockdown has come at a huge economic cost, Modi, however, asserted that India has chosen the correct path, and managed to avert to a large extent the damage caused by the pandemic in many countries.
He also noted that most of the state governments, experts and other stakeholders recommended the extension of the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. There are 10,363 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 339 deaths due to COVID-19 so far in India, as per the Union health ministry data.
At least eight states --Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal and Karnataka-- have already extended the lockdown till April 30, and Union government sources pointed out that it has been stretched till May 3 as May 1 is a public holiday, and May 2 and 3 is a weekend.
Just a thought of how much harm could have been caused to the country if his government had not followed a "holistic and integrated" approach gives him "goosebumps", he added.
Amid demands from certain quarters that economic activities be allowed to start, Modi said the lockdown will be strictly implemented for a week, and every area will be evaluated before a decision on allowing some "select necessary activities" will be taken.
"Areas that will succeed in this litmus test, which will not be in the hot-spot category, and will have less likelihood to turn into a hot-spot maybe allowed to open up select necessary activities from 20 April. However, keep in mind, this permission will be conditional, and the rules for going out will be very strict. Permission will be withdrawn immediately if lockdown rules are broken, and spread of coronavirus risked," he asserted.
Noting that India is in a much better position in terms of the loss of lives than several developed nations, Modi said,"our experience makes it clear that the path we have chosen is the right way."
(With inputs from PTI)
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