Broad consensus on extending lockdown by 2 more weeks (Photo Credit: File Photo)
As total coronavirus cases in India on Saturday crossed 7,500, Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked a shift in tackling the pandemic from his earlier motto of 'Jaan hai toh jahaan hai' to 'Jaan bhi, jahan bhi' or from "the world exists if life exists" to "life as well as the world."
The Prime Minister's thrust on 'jaan bhi and jahan bhi' (life also, the world also), during his interaction with chief ministers through video conferencing, appears to be an indication of some relaxation in restrictions and a possibility of a wider economic stimulus package. It hinted at the government's desire for economic activity should also gather some pace in a manner so that the fight to contain the coronavirus is not affected.
Three weeks ago in his address to the nation in which he announced 21-day lockdown in the country, the Prime Minister had talked of `jaan hai toh jahan hai' stressing the urgent need to save lives. While interacting with the Chief Ministers through video-conference, Modi categorically assured that India has adequate supplies of essential medicines and said that measures are being taken to ensure availability of protective gear and critical equipment for all frontline workers.
According to the prime minister there seems to be a consensus among the States on the extension by another two weeks the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
After the video-conference, several Chief Ministers hailed PM Modi's "decision to extend the lockdown." Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in his tweet: "PM has taken a correct decision to extend lockdown. Today, India's position is better than in many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is important to extend it."
This comes in the backdrop of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare confirming that as of Saturday evening, the total cases of coronavirus has climbed to 7,529 including 242 deaths and 652 people, who have either been cured or discharged.
Fresh cases were reported on Friday from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, West Bengal among other states and Union Territories. Maharashtra with 1,666 cases continues to be the worst affected state followed by Delhi with 1,069 cases and Tamil Nadu with 969 cases.
Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry, during the daily media briefing here said the lockdown and containment measures are important to fight COVID-19. "If we had not taken any measures, then we might have had 8.2 lakh cases by April 15," he said.
He also said that the estimation is a result of the statistical analysis and is not an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study.
"It is a statistical rate of growth based analysis. It is not an ICMR study. Before the nationwide lockdown, the rate of growth in cases was 28.9 per cent," said Aggarwal.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Saturday said that hydroxychloroquine or HCQ should be used as prophylaxis to prevent the coronavirus and not as a treatment for COVID-19. "Two trials were conducted abroad. The trials were not good enough. So, we thought if it needs to used in our country, it should be used as prophylaxis, and not as a treatment," said Raman R Ganagakhedkar, Head Scientist, ICMR.
Several states including Odisha, Punjab and Rajasthan have extended the lockdown till April 30 to contain the spread of the coronavirus. However, in other states like West Bengal have been pulled up for "gradual dilution" of the lockdown.
The Union Home Ministry (MHA) has written to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) of West Bengal. "As per further reports received from security agencies, gradual dilution of lockdown has been reported from West Bengal, with an increase in the number of exceptions being provided by the State Government," the MHA letter read.
"For instance, shops relating to non-essential items have been allowed to function. There is no regulation in vegetable, fish and mutton markets where people have been thronging in complete violation of social distancing norms in Rajabazaar, Narkel Danga, Topsia, Metiaburz, Gardenreach, Ikbalpur and Maniktala in Kolkata. Significantly, areas such as Narkel Danga are reportedly witnessing more COVID-19 like cases," it said.
During today's video-conference with state chief ministers, PM Modi urged them to popularise the 'Aarogya Setu' app as it is an essential tool in India's fight against coronavirus and referred to the possibility of the app being an "e-pass which could subsequently facilitate travel from one place to other".
Meanwhile, several ministers and common people have come forward to fight against COVID-19 with their unique tech ideas. Telangana Minister KT Rama Rao launched a "T COVID-19" mobile application, a single source of information on coronavirus, aimed at curbing the spread of fake news.
Similarly, to battle the dreaded infection, experts at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati have developed a low-cost UVC LED technology-based disinfection system that can be used to sanitise large areas in the houses and in public transport, including metros and buses. At present, the team has developed three models for household sanitisation and one for bigger spaces like hospital wards, buses and metros.
On the other hand, a 20-year-old youngster from Delhi is doing his bit by making face shields through his 3D printers for the "frontline warriors" fighting coronavirus.