India will pull out of a three-week lockdown in phases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said yesterday, as officials battle to contain the country’s biggest cluster of coronavirus infections in the capital, New Delhi.
The shutdown, which has brought Asia’s third-largest economy to a shuddering halt, is due to end on April 14.
Modi had ordered India’s 1.3bn people indoors to avert a massive outbreak of coronavirus infections, but the world’s biggest shutdown has left millions without jobs and forced migrant workers to flee to their villages for food and shelter.
He told state chief ministers that the shutdown had helped limit infections but that the situation remained far from satisfactory around the world and there could be a second wave.
“The prime minister said that it is important to formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once lockdown ends,” the government quoted him as saying in a video conference.
India has had 1,965 confirmed infections, of whom 50 have died, low figures by comparison with the US, China, Italy and Spain.
But the big worry is the emergence of a cluster in Delhi because of a gathering held by a missionary group last month that has spawned dozens of cases across the country, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Congress yesterday extended its support in containing the coronavirus outbreak but said that the government should have called all-party meet to discuss measures to contain the pandemic spread.
Congress general secretary K C Venugopal said: “We extend our support to the central government as well as all the state governments in fighting the deadly pandemic outbreak but the government should have initiated an all-party meet, held a dialogue with the opposition parties and other so as to discuss measures to be taken to contain the outbreak.”
“The prime minister talked to the chief ministers over a video conference yesterday. Why did he not had a similar video conferencing with the opposition,” Venugopal asked.
Earlier in the day the Congress Working Committee (CWC) met via video conferencing and said in its resolution that “India and the whole world is facing an unprecedented crisis in face of the rapid spread of coronavirus. It has the potential to claim hundreds of thousands of lives and devastate the global economy.”
“From the day the first case tested positive in India, the Congress has extended its full support to the central and state governments in their efforts to deal with the grave and unfolding circumstances. The Congress pledges to continue its unstinted support,” the resolution said.
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