Govt mulls extending lockdown as India cases rise to 5000

The nationwide tally of confirmed COVID19 cases crossed 5,000 on Tuesday amid hectic discussions for a possible extension of the 21-day lockdown beyond April 14 as several states announced plans to ramp up their testing infrastructure and put in place strong ‘cluster containment’ plans in areas identified as hotspots of the outbreak.

There were also indications about possible relaxations from a complete lockdown for some sectors, including agriculture and unorganised labour sector, at

least in some states, while there were also talks about even stronger area-specific restrictions in some places.

A PTI tally of figures reported by various states as on Tuesday showed more than 5,000 testing positive across the country and at least 145 deaths. The Union Health Ministry’s evening update, however, showed 4,789 confirmed cases and 124 deaths.

More than 400 have so far been cured and discharged, while nearly 1.1 lakh tests have been conducted so far in the country, as per official announcements.

Officials said that the lockdown and social distancing measures have helped contain the pandemic in a big way in India. Citing an ICMR study, the Health Ministry said just one COVID19 patient can infect as many as 406 people in 30 days in the absence of preventive measures such as social distancing and the lockdown.

With the preventive measures, the possibility of the infection can be reduced to an average of just two-and-a-half persons per patient in the same period, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said in the central government’s daily briefing on COVID19.

He said social distancing works like a “social vaccine” in management of COVID19, but refrained from commenting on whether the ongoing nationwide lockdown would be extended or lifted after April 14.

“Whenever a decision is taken, it will be informed. Till a decision is officially communicated, please refrain from speculation,” he said.

Government sources, however, said many state governments and experts are requesting the Centre to extend the lockdown and the central government is thinking in that direction.

There has been a nationwide lockdown since March 25, though some states had initiated such measures a few days earlier, to check the pandemic that has claimed more than 75,000 lives worldwide since its emergence in China last December. Over 13 lakh people have tested positive for the virus across the world so far.

Some states, however, indicated that the lockdown conditions could be relaxed for some segments.

A Group of Ministers on COVID19 on Tuesday recommended extension of closure of all educational institutions and restricting all religious activities having public participation till May 15 irrespective of whether the government extends the 21-day lockdown or not, official sources said.

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