In late January, India could not even have imagined that the novel COVID-19 virus would
spread to such an extent that the entire country would be put under lockdown. As the cases in the country skyrocket to 5,194 as of 8 March 2020, there are speculations that the 21-day national lockdown may be extended. Though these rumors had earlier been dismissed as baseless by government officials, several Chief Ministers of various states including the Chief Minister of Telangana have appealed the Central Government to extend the lockdown past 14 April understanding that the cases are expected to peak in the coming days.
“All Party Meet”
In an All Party Meet via video conference, the honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that he will make a decision regarding the extension of the lockdown post-April 14. He said that several experts and ministers have advised him to extend the lockdown as the number of cases is unlikely to stop increasing. He stated that he will hold a meeting with the Chief Ministers regarding the decision. Earlier this week, the PM Modi met several leaders of the opposition including Sonia Gandhi to discuss the situation.
He had also added that it would not be possible to lift the lockdown and that he will be devising an exit strategy.
While adding that country may never be the same again after the end of this pandemic and that everyone shall refer to time periods as pre- corona and post- corona “The priority of the government is to save each and every life. The situation in the country is akin to a ‘social emergency’, it has necessitated tough decisions and we must continue to remain vigilant,” said the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, several states have taken actions while appealing to the central government for further extension. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has ordered the sealing of 15 districts and allowed only doorstep delivery as the state emerged as a major hotspot of cases.
The Goa Port Minister Michael Lobo expressed the opinion of the cabinet that the lockdown in Goa shall continue till 30 April 2020. Mumbai government has mentioned that it may also extend state lockdown till 30 April following the steps of Goa.
The Union Ministry has asked the states to implement the Essential Commodities Act of 1955 to ensure the proper supply of essential items without any interference and prevent hoarding and black marketing.
Some ministers requested that religious gatherings, religious sites, and educational institutions remain closed.
“Extention will be followed by problems”
The issue of the migrant worker exodus, unemployment and the slow collapse of the economy are some of the major concerns of the central government which may play a major role in the final decision regarding the extension of the 21-day lockdown. It is likely that the government may implement the suggestion of Raghuram Rajan, the former RBI governor, to tackle the economic stagnation and to eradicate the possibility of people defying the lockdown to earn a means of livelihood.