India’s prime minister ordered all 1.3 billion people in the country to stay inside their homes for three weeks starting Wednesday, 25th March, 2020— the biggest and most severe action undertaken anywhere to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The nationwide lockdown followed a series of decrees that had been steadily growing more stringent, and some people had been expecting Mr. Modi to announce something even more severe, like a nationwide state of emergency and declaration of martial law.
The 21-day nationwide lockdown gives India an opportunity to flatten the new coronavirus curve, especially if widespread testing is carried out during this period — the absence of which will increase chances of resurgence of cases after the lockdown period is over, leading health experts warned on Thursday, 26th March, 2020.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for a meeting of floor leaders of political parties in both Houses of Parliament on April 8 to brief them about COVID-19 outbreak and related issues. The meeting will be held through video- conferencing.
Modi is closely monitoring the situation daily and discussed on Wednesday the ways to further strengthen India’s preparedness, including further enhancing testing facilities and actively engaging with individuals, local communities and organisations in chalking our mechanisms to fight the COVID-19 menace.
In a bid to forge bipartisan support over India’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen the country enter its 12th day of lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to former Presidents, Prime Ministers and leaders of Opposition parties.
According to government sources, Mr. Modi dialled former Presidents Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil as well as former Prime Ministers H.D. Deve Gowda and Manmohan Singh on Sunday. “He also called up Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Odisha CM and Biju Janata Dal leader Naveen Patnaik, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Yadav, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Prakash Singh Badal and DMK chief M.K. Stalin,” said government sources. “The calls all pertained to the challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic presents before us as a country and the need to be united to combat it,” said a source.
Mr. Modi has called for a video conference on April 8 with floor leaders of political parties whose combined strength in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha tots up to five MPs. The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress had, however, declared that it would not be attending the meeting. Today’s calls are being seen as an attempt to make up for any feelings of neglect the Opposition parties may have to such an outreach.
Officials also highlighted that the PM has been in touch with leaders in SAARC countries as well as G20, aiming at both regional and international partnerships to take on the epidemic, amid an early acknowledgement that no country has the expertise to fight COVID-19 alone. While steps are already afoot for a cooperation and creation of a fund following the PM’s video conference with SAARC leaders earlier this week, a similar effort with G20 countries is also on the cards after PM Modi first spoke about it with the Australian PM and then Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, as Saudi Arabia is the chair of G20.
“These initiatives by the PM are the first from a world leader on COVID-19 and could go a long way in a united fight against the disease by India, US, UK and European Union through the G20 platform,” said an official.
Modi has also held conversations with CMs of states like Maharashtra and UP which are reporting more cases and discussed steps being taken. The principal secretary to PM, PK Mishra, has been deputed by Modi to hold regular video conferences with states to ensure a coordinated approach. “Such efforts have ensured no shortage of testing kits or essential medicines,” said the official.
In his review meetings, Modi has stressed on spreading education on precautions and stopping the spread of panic. The message “seems to have hit home”, was according to officials. The step to involve the private sector for testing and treatment is aimed at escalating response mechanism in event of a sharp increase in cases, amid a suggestion within the government to conduct a sample survey in the community to assess ‘community spread’, said officials.