Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday confirmed that the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown will be extended to a fourth phase but it will have “totally different” rules to be announced before the current one expires on May 18.
“Corona is here to stay, experts say. But we cannot let our lives be controlled by corona. We will have to live with it. We will wear masks and maintain physical distancing but not give up on our dreams,” he said in his latest address to the nation.
“Lockdown 4 will have totally different rules and will be based on suggestions by the states. The new measures will be announced by May 18. We will fight and move forward by following rules,” PM Modi said, as he also announced a Rs 20 lakh crore economic package.
The central government last week had started taking steps to ease the nationwide lockdown, that began on March 25, aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus despite reporting significant jumps in number of cases.
PM Modi has faced increasing calls to end the stringent lockdown, with political parties, businesses and citizens saying the containment measures have destroyed the livelihoods of crores that rely on daily wages for sustenance.
On Monday, PM Modi told Chief Ministers of states in a video call the government would look at a “gradual withdrawal” of the lockdown, which has been repeatedly extended until May 17.
“We have a twofold challenge – to reduce the transmission rate of the disease, and to increase public activity gradually,” PM Modi said.
“Even as we look at the gradual withdrawal of the lockdown, we should constantly remember that till we do not find a vaccine or a solution, the biggest weapon with us to the fight the virus is social distancing.”
On Tuesday, the Indian Railways resumed passenger services with 15 trains a day connecting Delhi to Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and other big cities.
The country’s rail, road and air services were suspended in March to stop infections into the country’s interior, but the case numbers have risen daily. Officials say the spread of the disease would be worse if without the stringent restrictions.
Deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, have reached 2,293 while the number of cases crossed 70,000, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday. A fifth of India’s cases come from the densely populated cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Pune, which are also major centres of economic activity.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said three-fourths of Delhi’s cases of coronavirus were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms and did not need hospital treatment.
“Overall corona figures (are) rising in Delhi but at the same time people are getting cured and going back home safe. Now we’ve to learn to live with corona,” he said.