Coronavirus: States in no hurry to ease lockdown

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Lockdown in Delhi. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

At least seven states, which together have reported 1,367 coronavirus cases — almost one-third of the 4,281 cases across the country so far — indicated Monday that they would continue to have some restrictions in place even after the 21-day national lockdown ends on April 14.

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While Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao said he was in favour of extending the lockdown in his state, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, UP, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand indicated that they would not fully lift the restrictions after next Tuesday.

Assam, which has reported 26 cases, is planning a registration system to regulate those who wish to enter the state after the lockdown.

Maharashtra, which has recorded the maximum number of cases (748) so far, is likely to extend the lockdown in the Mumbai and Pune regions, as well in other hotspots. UP officials said that following the rise in number of cases in the state linked to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi (159 out of 305), “there is now uncertainty over lifting of the lockdown”.

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JMC workers fumigate the area around Hawa Mahal as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of coronavirus, during the nationwide lockdown, in Jaipur. (PTI)

Rajasthan (274) is working on a “staggered” exit strategy with curbs in “high risk zones”, while Chhattisgarh (10) Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against lifting interstate travel over worries the outbreak will spread.

Only Madhya Pradesh (165) struck a different note, as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that wheat procurement will begin from April 15.

Speaking to reporters in Hyderabad, Telangana Chief Minister Rao said: “We do not have any other weapon than the lockdown to control the spread of the virus. I appeal to the Prime Minister to extend the lockdown, I wholeheartedly support it. Our economy may recover after six months or one year but if lives are lost, they cannot be brought back.”

Rao also quoted from a report, which estimated that COVID-19 cases will peak in India by the first week of June.

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Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said his state “needs to work with great care in Mumbai and Pune as cases are higher in these regions... nobody should assume the lockdown will be relaxed completely from April 15”.

In Guwahati, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said: “As and when the lockdown is withdrawn, we have to regulate those wanting to come to Assam. For a temporary period, we may need an ILP-kind of a situation even for permanent residents.”

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Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath during the lockdown. (Express photo/File)

The ILP (Inner Line Permit) is a document that regulates the entry of outsiders in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram — Manipur was recently added to the list.

Sarma described it as an “entry permit” system and said that if thousands of people return at once, arranging quarantine could become a problem. He said people could be allowed to return in batches.

In Lucknow, a day after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath indicated that the lockdown might be lifted in a phased manner, the state government asked residents to “be ready to wait for some more time”.

“In the past three-four days, 159 cases related to the Tablighi Jamaat have come. Following this rise, the load of cases in the state has increased,” said Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Awasthi.

Rajasthan, meanwhile, has set up a committee to formulate a state-specific exit strategy, based on sealing high-risk zones. “It could be zones where there is already a flare-up or a probability of a flare-up later,” a senior official said.

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Speaking to The Indian Express, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said the state (4 cases) would lift the lockdown only after the government is satisfied that the situation is under control — “or else, we will keep it slow”.

“Around 6 lakh labourers will come to the state once the lockdown is lifted... Fortunately, rural areas constitute more than 80 per cent of Jharkhand and those are already isolated, and the population is not dense. The only workable solution with us right now is to make people aware of COVID-19. And we have to be ready with all medical facilities,” he said.

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Police surveillance at a fare price shop in Barasat. (Express Photo Shashi Ghosh)

In Madhya Pradesh, which has recorded 256 cases and 14 deaths, Chief Minister Chouhan said during a video conference to review wheat procurement plans: “There is a possibility that the lockdown will be lifted on April 14.”

Chouhan said that “more procurement centres should be opened so that the process ends by May 31’’ but added that procurement will not begin at urban centres in Indore, Bhopal and Ujjain districts to avoid crowding.

In Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Baghel requested the Prime Minister to take a decision... “after extensive deliberation” before allowing interstate travel after April 14.

Pointing out that eight of the 10 positive cases in the state have been discharged, Baghel wrote: “If after April 14th, trains, air traffic and inter-state road transport gets started in the country, then there are possibilities that COVID-19 infected people can arrive from other states in the state of Chhattisgarh. The state may face new difficulties.”

(Compiled from ENS reports)

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