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‘The value of your lives is supreme’: Modi extends India’s nationwide Covid-19 lockdown until May 3 as country tops 10,000 cases

‘The value of your lives is supreme’: Modi extends India’s nationwide Covid-19 lockdown until May 3 as country tops 10,000 cases
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced an extension of the country’s coronavirus lockdown, noting that while social distancing is working, another month of restrictions is needed as the nation fights the pandemic.

The prolonged lockdown came on Tuesday morning, with the PM telling citizens in a national address that their efforts were paying off, but that India is still not ready to lift its national quarantine.

Initially imposed in late March for 21 days, the measures are now set expire on May 3, Modi said, adding however that restrictions in some areas may be relaxed.

These measures have come at a huge price, but the value of your lives is supreme

“Until April 20, all districts, localities and states will be closely monitored, as to how strictly they are implementing norms,” Modi said, noting that after that point, states with manageable outbreaks will be “allowed to let some important activities resume, but with certain conditions.”

Affecting wide swathes of the country’s massive population of 1.3 billion, India maintains the world’s largest lockdown, putting more people under tight travel restrictions than any other nation amid the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic. Though some essential sectors have been allowed to keep running, much of the country has been forced indoors, venturing out only to pick up necessities such as food and medicine.

The prime minister’s office signaled that the measures would be extended over the weekend after putting out a news release about “extensive deliberations” with chief ministers from around the country, noting there was already “consensus” on lengthening the lockdown period at the time.

Because the “chain of transmission” has not yet been broken in India, the extension of the aggressive containment strategy is necessary, said Suresh Kumar Rathi, an epidemiologist and professor at the Public Health Foundation of India, who called for an even harsher quarantine.

“The extended lockdown should be implemented with tighter restrictions – it should be a curfew-like situation,” Rathi told Bloomberg. “First we need to survive. The economy and other things will come later.”

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Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of the capital city of Delhi, commended the move ahead of its official announcement, tweeting that the PM had “taken a correct decision to extend [the] lockdown,” adding that “all gains would be lost” if the measures were lifted now.

Despite the extension, however, with the World Bank forecasting a 1.5 percent fall in economic growth for India this fiscal year – a three-decade low – New Delhi has also been mulling reopening parts of its economy, some sectors of which have been brought to a halt amid the travel restrictions.

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Prior to Modi’s decision, a number of states extended their restrictions unilaterally, including Maharashtra – India’s worst-affected region – which pushed its lockdown at least until the end of April, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced over the weekend. Though he provided few additional details, Thackeray said the state’s measures would be relaxed in some districts and tightened in others after April 14, likely targeting the districts with the largest outbreaks.

The states and territories of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Puducherry, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, West Bengal and Odisha have each also extended their region-wide quarantines until the end of April, while Punjab prolonged its own measures until May 1.

India topped 10,000 cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, counting some 358 deaths in its outbreak, according to the latest figures released by the Health Ministry. Though India’s epidemic remains smaller than outbreaks in the US and many European countries, the number of new cases has accelerated in recent days, seeing some 1,200 on Monday alone.

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