Centre 'thinking' of extending COVID-19 lockdown

A final decision on the date from which the lockdown will begin to be lifted and the manner in which it would be done now hinges on the data to be provided by ICMR and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) – likely in three days - on the spread and likely progression of Covid-19 cases in the country, the sources said.

 

New Delhi:

India’s 21-day lockdown is set to end next week but several state leaders have called for an extension or only a partial lifting of restrictions, saying is the only way to avoid a coronavirus epidemic that will be difficult to tackle.
 

Many State governments and experts are requesting the Central government to extend the lockdown enforced to combat the coronavirus. The Centre is now thinking in this direction, government sources said.

 

However,Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the health ministry,said government hasn’t decided if a three-week lockdown of the country should be extended to help fight the coronavirus,as he called media reports "speculation".

 

``No decision on extending lockdown as yet (taken), please don't speculate," said at a press conference in New Delhi.

 

"Many State governments, as well as experts, are requesting the Central government to extend the lockdown. The Central government is thinking in this direction," sources said.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on March 24 announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown as a precautionary measure to control the spread of the coronavirus.

 

All the 11 empowered committees constituted to suggest ways to tackle different aspects of the Covid-19 crisis have favoured a gradual lifting of the lockdown even as Indian Council of Medical Research expressed ‘concerns’, people familiar with the matter said.


A final decision on the date from which the lockdown will begin to be lifted and the manner in which it would be done now hinges on the data to be provided by ICMR and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) – likely in three days - on the spread and likely progression of Covid-19 cases in the country, the sources said.

 

India's tally of COVID-19 positive cases rose to 4,421, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Tuesday. Out of the 4,421 cases, 3,981 are active cases while 325 have been cured or discharged and one has migrated. The total toll stands at 114. 

 

Emphasising the importance of 21-day lockdown and social distancing, Agarwal quoted a study conducted by ICMR, indicating that 1 COVID-19 patient can infect 406 people in 30 days if he/she doesn't follow lockdown.

 

In medical terms- this phenomenon is known as R-naught- or R0, is a virus’s basic reproductive number — an epidemiologic metric used to describe the contagiousness of infectious agents.
 

 

With preventive measures in place, the possibility of the infection can be reduced to an average of just two-and-a-half persons per patient in the same period, Agarwal said.


 

Citing the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study, Agarwal said that the current 'R0' or R naught for the coronavirus infection is somewhere between 1.5 and 4.
 

 

"If we take the 'R0' to be 2.5 then one positive person can infect 406 people in 30 days, if the lockdown and social distancing measures are not in place, but if social exposure is reduced by 75 per cent then that one sick person will only be able to infect only 2.5 persons," Agarwal said. 
 

 

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday gave a statement that supported calls for extending the lockdown. “Between the considerations of the health of the people and stabilization of our economy being debated, the former shall take precedence over the later. In my view, while the concerns of economy can wait for another day, that of health can’t,” he said.

 

India has so far escaped a big surge in cases after Modi asked its 1.3 billion people to stay indoors in the world’s biggest lockdown last month that authorities have enforced tightly.

 

But shuttering down the $2.9 trillion economy has left millions of people without work and forced those who live on daily wages to flee to their homes in the countryside for food and shelter.

 

Udhhav Thackeray-led state government is planning to extend the lockdown period beyond April 14 due to the sudden surge in positive cases of coronavirus in the past few days.Mumbai is likely to remain under extended lockdown, said state Health Minister Rajesh Tope. 

 

The chief minister of Telangana which has been hit by a rash of cases tied to a Muslim religious gathering in Delhi said 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 further more after April 15. Because, we can recover from the economic problem. But, we cannot get back lives,” K. Chandrasekhar Rao told reporters.

 

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 Assam and Chhattisgarh said 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.

 

BANGLADESH, NEPAL EXPECTING SURGE
Across South Asia, home to one fifth of the world’s population, there are growing concerns that it won’t escape the surge seen in other parts of the world. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina warned of a big outbreak this month.

 

“We have got some reports, which said there will be a massive hike in cases in Bangladesh. So, we have to be very careful to overcome the crisis,” Hasina told government officials.

 

She said the garment industry will also have to remain shut as part of the lockdown till April 14 even though businesses had asked for an exemption for the country’s top export earner.

 

So far, the densely packed country of 160 million has had 123 cases including 12 deaths.

 

Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli said risks to the landlocked country sandwiched between India and China were rising because people were not following quarantine properly.

 

“The coming two weeks will be of additional challenge for us. This is the high risk period for the spread of the coronavirus,” he said in an address to the country.


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