No decision yet on extending coronavirus lockdown in India, over 1 lakh tested for COVID-19: Centre

NEW DELHI: While clarifying that no decision has been taken yet on extending the ongoing lockdown in the country, the Centre on Tuesday (April 7, 2020) said that over 1 lakh tests have been conducted so far for the novel coronavirus and the number of infections due to the deadly virus stands at 4,421.

”With 354 new cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths reported in the last 24 hours, the total count of coronavirus positive cases in the country has gone up to 4,421,” the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry said.

“A total of 4,421 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in India till now as 354 new cases were reported since yesterday. A total of 117 deaths have been reported so far including 8 deaths reported since Monday,” Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said during the daily media briefing in the national capital.

Aggarwal further said that till now 326 persons have been discharged after recovering from the infection, adding that the government is adopting a strategy for cluster containment.

Agarwal said cluster containment strategies and action plans for outbreaks, which are amenable to management, are giving required results in some areas like Agra, Gautam Budh Nagar, Bhilwara, East Delhi and Mumbai.

Currently, 136 government labs are working and 59 private labs have been given permission for conducting the test, R Gangakhedkar, speaking on behalf of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said during the joint press briefing.

Lav Aggarwal further said that the government has partially lifted the ban on the export of Hydroxychloroquine, which is used only in particular cases – critical patients and health workers.

”The Health Ministry is monitoring its effects and we assure you we have sufficient quantity of the drug,’’ Agarwal said.

Calling on people to strictly follow social-distancing, Aggarwal said, ”A recent ICMR study states that if someone does not follow social distancing then in 30 days, a single infected person can infect 406 others. 2.5 persons will be infected if social distancing is maintained by a single individual.’’

Replying to question on extending the lockdown, which is set to end on April 14, he said, ”The Health Ministry and the Cabinet secretary has already issued a clarification denying extension of lockdown. It is true that states are asking for an extension, as and when the decision is taken after proper discussions, we will let you know.’’ 

Agarwal also assured that the status of essential goods and services is by and large satisfactory. 

‘’Home Minister Amit Shah did a detailed review of the status of essential commodities and lockdown measures, he gave directions to take appropriate measures and ensure hoarding and black marketing is not done,’’ PS Srivastav, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), informed.

All this came amid reports that the Centre is said to be considering requests from several state governments to extend the 21-day lockdown, which is set to end on April 14 amid fears that not doing so will lead to a rapid escalation in coronavirus cases across the country. Highly placed government sources on Tuesday claimed that in view of the request made by several state governments, the Centre is mulling to either extend the lockdown or only a partial lifting of restrictions.

The state governments are of the view that an extension or lifting of restrictions in a phased manner is the only way to avoid a coronavirus epidemic that will otherwise be difficult to tackle.

India has so far escaped a big surge in cases after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked its 1.3 billion people to stay indoors in the world`s biggest lockdown last month that authorities have enforced tightly. However, shuttering down the USD 2.9 trillion economy has left millions of daily wage workers and labourers without work and forced them to flee to their homes in the countryside for food and shelter.

The chief ministers of the states of Telangana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Assam, UP, Madhya Pradesh etc, which had been hit by a rash of cases linked to Islamic religious outfit Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi, had called for extending the lockdown.

Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao had on Monday said that the country could take the hit to the economy and that it was more important to save lives. “I am for the lockdown of the country furthermore after April 15. Because we can recover from the economic problem. But we cannot get back lives,” K. Chandrasekhar Rao told reporters.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also favoured a phased withdrawal of the lockdown, saying it cannot be done immediately after the 21-day period ends. Addressing a press conference through video conferencing, he said saving lives is important and no step should be taken that would endanger lives.

“We cannot withdraw lockdown immediately. It has to be done in a phased manner, that is what I feel,” Gehlot said when asked about the right time is to lift the countrywide lockdown over coronavirus. He said a decision on withdrawing the lockdown will, however, be taken after the recommendations of a task force set up in this regard are received.

MP CM Shivraj Singh too endorsed the view on extending lockdown. India has 4,421 coronavirus cases and 115 deaths, comparatively less than some countries such as the United States where fatalities from the respiratory disease have topped 10,000.

PM Modi, who has faced criticism for ordering the lockdown with barely four hours’ notice. is due to make a decision this week about whether to extend it. The leaders of the eastern states of Assam and Chhattisgarh said that they would like to keep the state borders closed or allow only restricted entry while they dealt with the infections.

“As and when the lockdown is withdrawn, we have to regulate those wanting to come to Assam,” said Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Meanwhile, Union Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday chaired a Group of Ministers (GoM) meeting to decide the plan of action by the Centre on COVID-19.

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