Two days before lockdown 4.0 ends, the government has moved into top gear to decide the way forward. Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday morning met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sources say the two discussed suggestions that have come from states and the task forces set up by the Centre. On Thursday, Shah had called up the chief ministers of all states and Union Territories to seek their view on the proposed lockdown extension.
Most states are in favour of giving a boost to economic activities but are also worried about the rising coronavirus numbers. News18 has learnt that Goa CM Pramod Sawant told Shah that the lockdown should continue but the hospitality sector in the state should be permitted to open up.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has sought the opening of hotels, motels and lodges as well, citing the extensive movement of people along the highways as well as through air and train routes. He has also sought the Centre’s for opening places of worship.
The Kerala government, however, is being cautious. CM Pinarayi Vijyan has expressed apprehension about allowing places of worship to open. After flattening the curve, the state has seen a resurgence of numbers as train and air travel restarted.
The northeastern states, where the coronavirus numbers started spiking only after the Centre opened up rail and air travel, have told the government they are willing to follow whatever decision taken after May 31.
As per central government sources, the Centre is willing to allow states more freedom to decide on which sectors they wish to open as long as containment zones in their states are dealt with seriously. Thirteen municipal areas, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune and Kolkata/Howrah have had a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary on the steps to be taken.
This is the first instance where the Home Minister and not the Prime Minister is engaging with states on the lockdown. There are indications that Modi is considering whether to announce the extension of the lockdown in his Mann Ki Baat address on Sunday.
The nationwide curbs were first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 for 21 days in a bid to contain the spread of novel coronavirus. It was first extended till May 3 and then again till May 17. The lockdown was further extended till May 31.
The number of COVID-19 cases in India has climbed to 1,65,799 on Friday, making it the world's ninth worst-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic. The Health Ministry said the death toll has risen to 4,706 in the country.
While extending the fourth phase of the lockdown till May 31, the central government had announced continuation of prohibition on opening of schools, colleges and malls but allowed opening of shops and markets. It said hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, malls, swimming pools, gyms will remain shut even as all social, political, religious functions, and places of worship will remain closed till May 31.
The government, however, allowed limited operations of train and domestic flights. The Indian Railways is also running special trains since May 1 for transportation of migrant workers from different parts of the country to their native states.