Lockdown 2.0: India to remain closed till 3 May, economy to open up gradually

India will remain under lockdown until 3 May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday, extending prohibitory measures by another 19 days.
The PM also said, from 20 April, based on extensive scrutiny, a conditional withdrawal of the lockdown will be permitted in areas where the spread has either been contained or prevented.
Acknowledging the sacrifices made by the citizens, the prime minister said there will be a greater focus on the hotspots, including those where infection rate could escalate.
“Growth in hotspots will create fresh challenges. Hence in the next one week we will step up our fight; till 20 April the scrutiny of the entire country will be stepped up," Modi said. “In areas where hotspots do not manifest and in those which have contained them, we can consider a conditional withdrawal of lockdown.”
In the world’s largest such exercise aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus, India now joins countries such as France which have extended their lockdown.
As both lives and livelihoods become the focus of tackling the coronavirus pandemic in a coordinated effort by Centre and states, the lockdown will have calibrated concessions to restart economic activity.
States had asked for the extension of the lockdown and some had already extended it, Modi said in a televised address to the nation, his third address to the nation in the last one month apart from one video message which he released.
Taking the lead in this direction, Odisha was the first state to extend the lockdown unilaterally. The move was replicated by states like Telangana, Maharashtra, and Punjab which have already extended the lockdown till 30 April.
As both lives and livelihoods become the focus for the Centre and states, India plans to slowly reopen its economy, while maintaining stringent curbs in covid-19 hotspots, and prevent the current upheaval from devolving into a deeper social crisis with millions of poor left hungry and jobless.
“During the next one week, the fight against coronavirus will become strict wherein till 20 April every town, every police station, every district, every state will be evaluated in terms of how the lockdown is being implemented and how that region has protected itself from coronavirus," Modi said.
Hotspots or infection clusters across India have risen three-fold to 150 in the past week, complicating the government’s efforts to contain the spread of covid-19. To make matters worse, nearly 100 districts that have such hotspots are also major manufacturing hubs of the country — posing difficulties in reopening factories quickly.
“Those who pass this test, and who are not in these hotspots with a low likelihood of turning into a hotspot may be allowed certain essential activities,” Modi said.
India has been exploring a decentralized strategy to exit the lockdown that may involve dividing the nation into green, orange and red zones, with the Centre not in favour of lifting the lockdown cannot across the country in one go.
Acknowledging the need for a decentralised response given that the spread of the diseases has been varied across the country, Modi said detailed guidelines will be issued on Wednesday, which will keep in mind the needs of the informal sector and farmers.
The timing for the extension of lockdown is a cause of worry for several state governments as this is a harvesting season for winter crops and mandis need to be open for the sale of crops.
Modi said India has been able to stem the losses because of coronavirus to a larger extent, because of the troubles undertaken by the people.
More than 90% of the country’s workforce is estimated to be from the informal sector. The Economic Survey of 2017-2018 had said 87% of the firms in the country, representing 21% of the total turnover, are operating informally and completely outside the tax and social security nets.
A successful implementation of measures to prevent the pandemic by India has paved the way for the nation’s mindset reset, something that has not been tried on this scale for 1.3 billion people in a democratic country.

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