By — Shyamal Sinha
The total number of Covid-19 infections in India crossed the 6,000-mark as the country entered day 17 of the three-week lockdown. India added 678 new cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours taking the total tally to 6,412, according to the health ministry’s update at 8:00 am. That includes 504 people cured or discharged and 199 deaths.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is now facing the tough choice of whether to extend the lockdown, which has put millions of people out of work, beyond April 14 or not. Several state governments have favoured extending the lockdown. Odisha is the only state to have actually extended it till April 30.
Amid rising number of cases of Covid-19, India’s ongoing 21-day lockdown may be extended beyond April 14. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a video message to BJP workers on Monday said that the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic will be long and arduous.
“I have been speaking to chief ministers and district collectors… the common refrain is that it is not easy to lift the lockdown. We need to be strict in implementing social distancing norms. So be it lifting or extending the lockdown, the general mood is that it will not be possible to lift the lockdown at once,” PM Modi said.
The ruling party is making concerted efforts to build political consensus with the opposition leaders to extend the lockdown and come up with strategies and stimulus packages to be implemented to mend the slowing economy once the lockdown is lifted. State governments such as Maharashtra, Telangana, Punjab, and Madhya Pradesh have all favoured the move.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao on Monday said that the government must look beyond the obvious economic loss and concentrate on saving lives and dealing with the issue at hand. I am appealing to the Prime Minister and Government of India to extend lockdown without hesitation. Lockdown is the only weapon we have to control the spread of this disease and avoid a situation which countries like the US, Spain and Italy are facing,” he said at a press conference.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leader in the Rajya Sabha said, “PM said that he is getting information from people that they want lockdown to be extended but the final decision will be taken after the meeting with CMs.”
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar told the PM during the meeting that the Covid-19 epidemic will have a global impact and that India will also have to prepared. “It will be necessary to take appropriate steps to stimulate economic growth once again, for which the central government should start planning from now on to revive the overall financial system.”
India with a population of 1.3 billion, experts say, will face a mammoth task if the virus spreads across the country with the ratio of people to hospitals massively imbalanced and under-developed to deal with the pandemic.