Lockdowns should be last resort: Modi, urges states to convince migrants to stay put and protect their lives and livelihoods

·5-min read

New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday asserted that lockdowns should be the 'last resort' to deal with the raging COVID-19 pandemic, and sought to deliver a message to reassure the nation that his government was making all efforts to augment medical care as the country was again faced with a 'big battle' against the virus. Modi also asked states to convince migrant workers, a large number of whom have begun leaving for their home states in distress following lockdowns in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, to stay put where they are with a guarantee that they will be vaccinated in the coming days and will also not lose their livelihoods.

In his nearly 20-minute address to the nation, his first this year, the Prime Minister primarily focussed on the recent decisions taken by his government -- ranging from ramping up production and supply of oxygen and essential medicines besides making vaccine eligible for all adults, and also indicated the Centre's resolve to pay attention to the health of the economy as well as of people. 'In today’s situation, we have to save the country from lockdown. I will also request states to use it as the last resort. We have to try hard to avoid lockdown and the focus has to be on the micro containment zone. We will improve our economy’s health and also take care of the people’s health,” he said.

Assuring that the government was working with speed and sensitivity to meet the increasing demand of oxygen, Modi also called upon all stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical industry, to deal collectively with the immediate challenge of the shortage of oxygen cylinders.

Ahead of his address, Modi interacted with vaccine manufacturers and urged them to continuously scale up their production capacity to inoculate all Indians in the shortest possible time.

Interacting with vaccine manufacturers from across the country via video conferencing, Modi said the private sector will play an even more active role in the vaccination drive in the coming days and that this will require better coordination between hospitals and industry.

He also assured all possible support and smooth approval process for the vaccine candidates which are currently under trial phase.

With reports of patients dying due to lack of medical care coming from different parts of the country amidst a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, Modi said he empathises with the pain of those having lost their near and dear ones and shared their grief as a family member. The country is fighting a very big battle against the pandemic, he said, adding that its second wave has hit it like a storm after the condition appeared to have stabilized.

'The challenge is big but we have to overcome it with our resolve, courage and preparation,' he said.

Modi said the Centre, state governments and private sector are trying that every needy person gets oxygen with efforts to increase oxygen production and supply at various levels.

Measures like installing new oxygen plants, providing one lakh new cylinders, diverting oxygen from the industrial use, 'oxygen express' trains are being undertaken, he said.

India's total tally of COVID-19 cases climbed to 1,53,21,089 with 2,59,170 new coronavirus infections being reported in a day, while active cases surpassed the 20-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

The death toll increased to 1,80,530 with a record 1,761 new fatalities in a day, the data updated at 8 am showed.

The daily count of new cases across the country had fallen to less than 20,000 a few weeks ago, but there has been a sharp surge in the recent past.

Apart from virtually ruling out any immediate nationwide lockdown, a move that had triggered a massive migration of workers from big cities last year and hit the economy hard, Modi's address focused on livelihood of migrant workers as well as the governments efforts to provide medical care amidst the pandemic.

Industry bodies lauded Modi's address, saying it sends across the right message to everyone about the country's fight against COVID-19, including to migrant workers, and will help the Indian economy tide over this pandemic.

Some states have announced lockdowns in their worst-hit regions. Delhi is also under a week-long lockdown that will end on Monday.

Along with saving lives, effort is also on to saving economic activities and ensure minimal adverse impact on the livelihood of people, he said, adding that opening vaccination for those aged 18 years and above will ensure a jab for the workforce in the cities. Modi further said the nation now has vaccines to support India's cold chain system and noted that it has launched the world's largest vaccination campaign with two made-in-India vaccines.

India is the fastest in the world to administer 10 crore, 11 crore and now 12 crore vaccine doses, he said, as he dwelt at length during his short speech about a string of announcements made by his government to deal with the worst health crisis ever to hit the country.

In his address, Modi said the people were suffering but 'we need to fight it out with all our might', and expressed confidence that the coronavirus will be defeated with the combined efforts of the people.

'I want to thank our doctors and all our healthcare workers for working non-stop in this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,' he said.

Modi noted that the pharma sector was working relentlessly to meet all COVID-19 challenges, including vaccine development and supply.

The situation is different from last year when there was no COVID vaccine in the country or infrastructure to produce PPE kits and other much-needed medical goods, he noted.

'If we all follow COVID-19 protocols, there will be no need to impose lockdowns,' Modi said.

Calling upon the youth to help in maintaining COVID-appropriate behaviour in their areas and neighbourhood, the Prime Minister said this will rule out containment zones, curfews or lockdowns.

He also asked children to create an atmosphere where their family members avoid going out unnecessarily. PTI ASK KR RT BJ KR PYK PYK