A lady standing inside her shop during the lockdown at Barasat, West Bengal. (Express Photo by Shashi Ghosh)
With India reaching the halfway point in the 21-day lockdown, the government has started deliberating on the way forward at the end of the national coronavirus lockdown. From a common exit strategy to a phase-wise restoration of services, here is a list of options that are before the government once the lockdown ends at 11.59 pm on April 14.
'Common exit strategy for staggered re-emergence of population'
Interacting with Chief Ministers of all states via video-conference from New Delhi Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told the CMs to “formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once the lockdown ends” on April 14.
He had also underlined that “in the next few weeks, testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine should remain the areas of focus” in the country’s war against the coronavirus threat. He also warned that the global situation remains “far from satisfactory” and there was speculation of a “possible second wave of the spread of the virus in some countries”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with CMs via video-conference Thursday. (ANI)
On the need to maintain social distancing even after the lockdown, Modi, one of the meeting participants said, warned that people should not come out in hundreds on the roads. He suggested that the lifting of the lockdown be staggered, earmarking some days for vehicles, other days for cyclists, and that fewer people should be in offices. He told the Chief Ministers that the country may need to enforce social distancing at least until Diwali. Read more here
Within the Modi-led central government, "a limited lockdown" in some areas is an option that seems to be gaining ground. But what forms these “limits” would take depends on a host of factors, the key being the nature of the spread of the virus. One opinion currently within the government seems to be that while it may not be possible to reach a zero-new-case situation by April 14, the best option would be to focus on specific “pockets” to contain the spread. Read more here
Indian Railways asks zones to plan phase-wise restoration of services
Indian Railways is preparing a plan for phased resumption of its passenger services post lockdown, even as the government is yet to take a final call on the matter. As the Railway Board awaits instructions from the government on this, it has asked its zonal railways to prepare a plan for phase-wise restoration of services after April 14 and submit to the ministry, sources said.
Those in the zones confirmed to The Indian Express that instructions have been received as the ministry gauges the readiness of its zonal units. Zones are typically set to indicate to the Railway Ministry in the coming days if they have the capability to start with 25 per cent of the usual services scaled up to 50 per cent and the like depending on the government’s lockdown strategy in the face of COVID-19 outbreak.
Maitree Express arrives at Kolkata Railway Station, 51 Indian resident returns from Bangladesh on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (Express photo by Partha Paul)
Railways suspended all its services in the night of March 22 post the announcement of the lockdown. Only trains which were already running were allowed to reach their destinations. There has been so no talk so far in the government about resuming 100 per cent of the usual services—some 13,000 trains— at one go immediately after April 15, sources said. Read more here
'Domestic flight bookings can start after April 14'
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday said that airlines can take domestic bookings after April 14 if the 21-day lockdown is not extended further. As far as the civil aviation ministry is concerned, it is proceeding on the basis of the understanding that the lockdown is till mid-April, Puri said while addressing a video press conference.
The current Lockdown on both domestic & international passenger flights is till April 15.
A decision to restart the flights after this period remains to be taken.
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) April 2, 2020
“Now, what do the airlines do as a part of their contingency planning and to prepare for the future, it is entirely up to the airline. There is no directive from us,” said Puri. “But as someone who is always an eternal optimist, I am hoping that from April 15, the flights can at least start-if not everything then in a calibrated manner,” he added. Read more here
Passengers waiting to get on board the Air India flight that leaves for Frankfurt from Dum Dum airport on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)
Meanwhile, national carrier Air India has shut its booking window until 30 April for all domestic and international routes and is awaiting a decision after 14 April, when the nationwide lockdown is scheduled to end. "We are awaiting a decision post 14 April," the airline spokesperson was quoted as saying by PTI.