Restrictions May Continue Beyond April 14, Lockdown Only for Covid-19 Hotspots One Option: Govt Sources

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New Delhi: The strict restrictions imposed on the movement of people as an emergency measure to curb the spread of coronavirus may continue post April 14, when the 21-day nation-wide lockdown is set to end, government sources have told News18.

While Cabinet Secretary Rajeev Gauba had a week ago denied that there were any plans to extend the lockdown, several states have written to the Centre saying that the restrictions must continue.

Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in India have risen sharply in the last one week, crossing the 4,000-mark on Monday morning, while 109 people have died so far, according to health ministry data. The trajectory has been steep as cases have nearly doubled in the last four days, and if the same trajectory continues for a few weeks, India's hospitals could get overwhelmed.

While the curve is flatter than the one seen early on in the United States, which has become the global epicentre, it has been sharper than Asian peers like Singapore and Japan.

Another proposal that the government is considering is to lock down only the Covid-19 hotspots, and not extend the nationwide lockdown. The health ministry has identified at least 20 virus hotspots across the country and another 22 potential hotspots.

According to sources, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be apprised of the situation at the Cabinet’s meet on Monday and the final decision on extending the lockdown will be taken by him.

In a video conference with CMs of several states last week, the Prime Minister had called for a staggered lifting of the lockdown, suggesting that the restrictions will not be removed soon.

"It is important to formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once the lockdown ends," the PM had said, asking them to send their suggestions for such an exit strategy.

The PM had ordered a three-week lockdown on March 24 to avert a massive outbreak of infections, but the world’s biggest shutdown has left many without jobs and forced migrant workers to flee cities to their villages in search of food and shelter.

The state government in Maharashtra, which has been the hardest hit by the virus, had on Sunday already said that if cases continue to rise, then there may be no option but to extend the lockdown.

“It could be extended in Mumbai and urban areas of Maharashtra by two weeks,” Rajesh Tope, the health minister of Maharashtra, told Reuters.