New Delhi, Sep 23 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday asked states to press on with full strength in opening economic activities alongside fighting the coronavirus pandemic and suggested that they should now focus on 'micro-containment zones' to curb the disease.
In a review meeting through video conference with chief ministers and representatives of seven states with a high burden of COVID-19 cases, Modi said having micro containment zones will help states in dealing with the spread of the infection and also allow normal activities to continue.
The prime minister also questioned the efficacy of one or two-day local lockdowns imposed by certain states from time to time and asked them to reassess as to how effective they are in curbing the disease.
'Is it that this is creating difficulties in the resumption of economic activities in your states? This is my request that all states consider it seriously,' he said.
Several states, including West Bengal and Punjab, have time to time imposed local lockdowns to contain the virus spread.
With major festivals like Durga Puja and Diwali approaching in the next couple of months, Modi asked states to promote COVID-appropriate festivities, as he observed that the battle against the pandemic is far from over.
He noted that only 60 districts out of more than 700 districts across the country, and that too in just seven states, have a high load of cases and therefore a cause of concern.
He suggested to chief ministers to draft a one-week programme to interact directly with officials in a few blocks of these places on a daily basis.
This will boost the messaging at the ground level and inject more seriousness and sincerity in fighting the pandemic, he said.
The nationwide lockdown after the pandemic's outbreak benefitted us a lot, and the world has also lauded it, the prime minister said and then asked states to now focus on micro-containment zones.
'We should now focus only on micro-containment zones so that coronavirus spread is curbed and normal activities of life will also continue... We have to enhance our focus on effective testing, tracing, treatment, surveillance and clear messaging,' he said.
'We have to continue with the patience, empathy, dialogue and cooperation which the country has displayed during these corona times. While battling the infection, we have to press on with full strength on the economic front,' Modi added.
The prime minister said his government has also increased the states' limit to spend the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to boost infrastructure to tackle the pandemic, adding that this will help them in fighting it.
Chief ministers and other representatives, including health ministers, of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Punjab attended the meeting.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also participated in the meeting.
'Attended the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji via video-conferencing with the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh to review the COVID-19 situation and its management in these states,' Shah later tweeted.
An official statement had earlier said that more than 63 per of the active cases in the country are concentrated in these seven states. These states also account for 65.5 per cent of the total confirmed cases and 77 per cent of the total deaths.
The prime minister told states to further enhance their focus on effective testing, tracing, treatment, surveillance and clear messaging.
Acknowledging the continuous rise in the COVID-19 cases, he noted that more than 10 lakh tests are being done daily and the number of people recovering from the disease is also going up sharply.
Noting that most of the COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic, Modi said an effective messaging is all the more important as rumours often get spread and the common man wonders if the testing is wrong.
Some people even make the mistake of undermining the seriousness of the disease, he said, while pitching for the need for an effective messaging.
Citing studies, Modi said wearing mask is very important in stopping the infection spread and asserted that positive outcomes will be difficult without people making it a part of their daily life.
A statement said states were also asked to increase tests substantially and to ensure 100 per cent RT-PCR tests in symptomatic rapid antigen test-negative cases.
Modi appealed to the nation to follow COVID-safe behaviour all the time and asked states to continue with mission-mode approach.
He asked states to adopt and encourage best practices in containing the virus.
The prime minister said it has to be ensured that medicines move unhindered from one state to another and noted that India has also been able to supply medicines across the world during such hard times.
Hindrance in the inter-state movement of services and people adversely affect the normal life and livelihood, he said and asked states to continuously monitor supply chains.
He noted that India has also been able to supply medicines across the world during such hard times.
The infrastructure developed to treat COVID-19 in the last few months has been very helpful, and it has to be strengthened further and the tracking-tracing network should be given better training, he said.
On the occasion, Modi noted that Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, under which the poor are treated free, will complete its two years on September 25 and said that over 1.25 crore patients have received free treatment so fat.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan were among the senior functionaries who attended the meeting.
India's COVID-19 caseload went past 56 lakh with 83,347 infections being reported in a day, while over 45 lakh people have recuperated, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. PTI KR BJ HMB