Will 21-day Coronavirus Lockdown be Extended? Govt to Decide After PM Modi's Meeting With CMs on Saturday

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New Delhi: The government will decide on extending the 21-day lockdown announced by Narendra Modi to arrest the spread of coronavirus after the prime minister’s meeting with chief ministers via video conferencing on Saturday.

In his last meeting with the CMs, PM Modi had sought suggestions on lifting the lockdown, which has caused immense distress to the poor and migrant workers, in a phased manner.

Sources in the Union government say the Centre is keen to lift restrictions in places that haven’t reported Covid-19 cases. This comes even as several states have petitioned the Centre against lifting the lockdown, given the surge in number of cases of novel coronavirus.

India on Wednesday reported 5,149 cases of novel coronavirus while the death toll rose to 149. Sources said though the spike in infections was worrying, the economic losses of the lockdown, which include rising unemployment, would be difficult to ignore too.

Sources say many secretaries as well as the top brass of the Niti Aayog feel a complete lockdown after April 15 will cause significant damage to the economy. They are in favour of lifting restrictions in areas that are not ‘Red Zones’.

On Tuesday, a Group of Ministers recommended that all educational institutions stay closed for another four weeks. It also suggested continuing the ban on religious gathering and meetings. This meeting was attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

The final decision on the exit strategy, however, will be taken by PM Modi.

Amid rising worries about asymptomatic cases from some states like Kerala and Maharashtra, officials say the top priority is to arrest the contagious virus.