The period of 21 days announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 19 March as that of a nationwide lockdown to prevent coronavirus infection from spreading is coming to an end on 14 April. Now, based on the demand from nine states to extend the lockdown, it may be extended across the country up to 30 April.
On Tuesday, 14 April, Prime Minister Modi is likely to address the country for the fourth time to make the announcement. Before this, the prime minister will talk to the chief ministers of states via video conferencing on Saturday (12 April). Modi, in his second address on 24 March, had announced a 21-day lockdown, thus pushing the previous last date of the virtual curfew from 31 March to 14 April.
According to government sources, the lockdown will be extended with some changes. Restrictions will not apply to essential services as the lockdown continues in states. School, colleges and shrines are likely to remain closed too.
However, while in the video conferencing with union ministers some days ago, the prime minister had made it clear that the country was going through a phase of social emergency, saying it was a priority to save everyone’s life, he had emphasised the need to change the conventional style of working to sustain the economy.
14 April announcement may include relaxation to some sectors
Life before and after the coronavirus crisis will not be the same, but life will go on nevertheless where money will remain paramount. The lockdown has caused a 4% slump in the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) while in several European countries the growth is now negative.
France has forecast that its GDP will plummet by 6% while its economic activities are already down by 32%. Most European nations are now failing to honour the 3% upper limit of fiscal deficit in their budgets because of the massive welfare spending necessitated by the global coronavirus pandemic.
In view of the fact that the economy of the country is suffering a great deal due to the lockdown, some sectors may be exempted from zero-activity on the condition that they observe social distancing.
The RBI in its report expressed the possibility of a rapid recovery in the economy despite the national health crisis. The aviation sector has been the worst affected by the lockdown.
The government may allow airlines companies to start flights with a ceiling on the number of passengers they can let board the plains. Air travel, if allowed, will come with uncomfortable constraints for the passengers too like passing a screening test and explaining why the travel is absolutely necessary.
Odisha, Punjab extend lockdown till 30 April
Odisha is the first state to extend the lockdown period. It has decided to keep the lockdown until 30 April and close schools and colleges until 17 June.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has appealed to the Centre to stop flights.
Punjab also has extended the virtual curfew till 30 April.
Karnataka is preparing to extend the lockdown.
Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry are in favour of extending the lockdown period too.
Lockdown discussed with union ministers
The lockdown was discussed in the first meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) formed for coordinated action on the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh chaired this meeting on 7 April. Home Minister Amit Shah was present in the meet.
The GoM recommended that schools, colleges, malls and religious places be closed till 15 May. According to sources, the GoM is of the opinion that even if the lockdown does not extend beyond 14 April, activities in the aforementioned places must not be permitted.
3 addresses by PM Modi on coronavirus
First: On 19 March, the prime minister had talked about imposing a public curfew. After this, everything remained closed on 22 March across the country. In the evening, people thanked the coronavirus fighters by clapping and playing a plate from inside the house.
Second: On 24 April, Modi announced a nationwide lockdown from March 25 to April 14 to prevent coronavirus infection. He had said that people who break the chain of Coronavirus should follow the Lakshman Rekha to live in homes.
Third: Prime Minister Modi released a video message on 3 April where he appealed to the people to show their solidarity by lighting lamps, candles and mobile lights in the houses by turning off the lights of the houses for 9 minutes at 9 PM on 5 April. This sent the opposition in a tizzy. It floated the conspiracy theory that the national power grid would trip due to a sudden drop in the load, notwithstanding the grid’s assurance that the fluctuation would be manageable. The drop eventually caused no harm to the power distribution system of the country.