Danger of the virus is far from over: PM Modi

Danger of coronavirus is far from over: PM Modi

PM Modi interacts with the chief ministers on the COVID-19 situation. Credit: DH Photo

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held interactions with chief ministers to discuss graded exit plan after May 3, a broad consensus appeared firming up about not lifting the restrictions altogether with many states remaining wary of allowing inter-state movement from May 4.

“The danger of the virus is far from over and constant vigilance is of paramount importance. As per experts, the impact of coronavirus will remain visible in the coming months,” Modi said. Reiterating the mantra of ‘do gaz doori’, he said that masks and face covers will become part of our lives in the days ahead.

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He highlighted the importance for states to enforce guidelines strictly in the hotspots-- the red zone areas. He stated that the efforts of the states should be directed towards converting the red zones into orange and thereafter, to green zones.

The Prime Minister’s focus on zones come amid plans to have separate exit plans for each of the three zones as per which lockdown with stringent norms will continue in the red zone, while there will be big relaxations in green zones. Orange zone falls in between the two. The Prime Minister expressed glee over nearly 300 districts with no COVID-19 cases and said they should be treated as “sacred”.

Four of the nine chief ministers were in favour of extending lockdown, while the remaining five either disapproved it or batted for only partial lockdown. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was the only one, who sought extension of the lockdown for one more month. Telangana has already extended the lockdown till May 7, four days more than the 40-day national lockdown, which ends on May 3 unless further extended.

At the nearly three-hour long meeting during which nine chief ministers spoke, the Prime Minister lauded the contribution of states in fighting COVID-19 and stressed that the lockdown has helped contain the spread of virus.

Emphasising the need to give importance to the economy as well as continue the fight against COVID-19, Modi said the impact of coronavirus will remain visible in the coming months and masks and face covers will be part of our life.

Modi said that the lockdown has yielded positive results and the country has managed to save thousands of lives in the past 1.5 months.

Amid demands for extending the lockdown further, the Prime Minister said that efforts of states should be directed towards converting the red zones into orange and thereafter to green zones.

Broad indication of continuation of the lockdown in hotspots emerged during the meeting that discussed the emerging situation and plan ahead for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Prime Minister called for brave reforms in the economy that touch the lives of common citizens. Modi also assured the states that the country’s economy is robust and there is no need to worry as states talked of resources and future impact on the economy due to lockdown.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who has already decided to bring back the labours from the state stranded in 14 districts, raised the issue of migrant labours and said the  decision on removing lockdown should be left to the state while new efforts are required to pep up industrial production. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeary has already sought running of special trains to send migrants home, who do not want to stay back.  At the meeting chief ministers from Goa and Meghalaya also favoured extending the lockdown.

Bihar Chief Minister Kumar raised the issue of many states bringing back students belonging to their states from Kota in Rajasthan and said that the lockdown rules should be one for all students and migrant labourers. Bihar is the only state government which has not brought back its students from Kota, though one BJP MLA from the state brought back his son on his own, kicking up a row.

Providing their feedback, Chief Ministers suggested measures to meet economic challenges and boost health infrastructure. This was the fourth such interaction of the Prime Minister with the Chief Ministers. The earlier ones were held on March 20, April 2 and April 11.

Modi said the lockdown has yielded positive results as the country has managed to save thousands of lives in the past one and a half months, while the situation in many other countries has worsened.

Underlining the need to give importance to the economy as well as continue the fight against COVID -19, the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of usage of technology as much as possible and also to utilize time to embrace reform measures. He also suggested that people associated with Universities can be integrated on devising ways to fight the pandemic and strengthen research as well as innovation.

On the issue of getting back Indians who are overseas, he said that this has to be done keeping in mind the fact that they don’t get inconvenienced and their families are not under any risk.

The Prime Minister also urged Chief Ministers to factor in the changes in weather - advent of summer and monsoon - and the illnesses that can potentially come in this season, while strategizing ahead.

 Home Minister Amit Shah in his opening remarks, reaffirmed the need to enforce lockdown so that maximum lives are saved.

Shah is learnt to have said that this is a long battle, which has to be fought patiently while Prime Minister Narendra

In the Supreme Court separately, the MHA said migrants do not need to return to their villages.

The nearly three-hour long meeting saw a number of states raising concern about lack of resources to meet the Covid-19 challenge during the lockdown and its cascading effect on the economy.

The challenges before governments are how to bring a flagging economy back to rails and ensure the return of migrant workers to their homes in the backdrop of frequent agitations by migrants in different states and large numbers of them in  desperation starting foot-march to cover thousands of kilometers to reach their homes.

Kerala, whose Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan chose to skip the meeting, will submit its views in writing. In absence of Chief Minister, the state was represented by state Chief Secretary, is not in favour of a blanket withdrawal of all restrictions and post May 3 and will prefer a graded exit from the lockdown.

The meeting saw a number of Chief Ministers asking for ramping up the tests.

Rahul Gandhi had on Sunday said, “Experts agree that mass random testing is the key to beating Corona. In India, a bottleneck is stopping us from scaling testing from the current 40,000 per day to 1 lakh tests a day, for which test kits are already in stock. PM needs to act fast & clear the bottleneck.”

The total number of cases crossed 27 thousand. 29 percent of total cases of India are from Maharashtra while over 17 percent of Covid 19 deaths are in Gujarat. Madhya Pradesh is another state with a high number of Covid 19 cases. Many Chief Ministers  want that the lockdown should not be lifted overnight and should continue with more relaxations for at least a month.

Some of the demands raised during the meeting were resuming activities in non-hot-spot areas, running special trains to ferry migrant workers and making additional kits and PPE to states. There are indications that any opening will be followed up with aggressive testing and tracing protocols to avoid the proliferation of new clusters.

The nine Chief Ministers, who spoke in the meeting were from Bihar, Odisha, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry. Others were asked to send their representatives—Chief Secretaries, who sat in the conference but did not speak. These states sent their feedback in writing.