Coronavirus: Odisha to remain locked down, states weigh options on curbs
Covid-19 update: Patnaik’s announcement, without waiting for the Centre to take a final call, could set an example for other states that favour a prolonged lockdown to follow. To be sure, most state governments said they were waiting for the Centre to set the direction.Updated: Apr 10, 2020 08:20 IST
Odisha took the lead on Thursday by extending the lockdown for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic by a fortnight until the end of the month, shrugging aside its economic impact, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated that his government isn’t inclined to lift the emergency protocol in its entirety when it lapses on April 14.
Human life is more important than the economy, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik remarked after presiding over a meeting.
Patnaik requested the Centre to not to order a resumption of commercial flights and train services to Odisha until after the extended lockdown ends. Schools and colleges in the state of 46 million people will remain shut until June 17, he said.
“Coronavirus is the biggest threat that the human race has faced in more than a century. In a powerful nation like the US, corona cases have jumped from 3,000 to 400,000. More people have died of coronavirus in the US than all those killed in the 9/11 attack and subsequent wars.Yet, a lockdown could not be implemented entirely there,” said the Odisha CM.
Patnaik’s announcement, without waiting for the Centre to take a final call, could set an example for other states that favour a prolonged lockdown to follow. To be sure, most state governments said they were waiting for the Centre to set the direction.
Covid-19 has claimed 230lives in India since a 76-year-old man from Karnataka’s Kalaburgi on March 10 became the first person in India to die of the infection after returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia. The number of coronavirus infections as of 11p.m.on Thursday had reached 6,701.Odisha’s toll is 44 infections and one death.
Prime Minister Modi on March 24 announced a nationwide lockdown with effect from the following day,calling it an effective curfew. All offices and factories, schools and colleges have been shut, and flights,train services and public road transport suspended as part of the lockdown.
Modi is due to discuss extending the lockdown with state chief ministers on Saturday via a video conference. On Wednesday, in a video conference with floor leaders of political parties in Parliament, he indicated that he was averse to lifting the lockdown abruptly.
“Nobody is saying that lockdown should be lifted. I will talk again to CMs. But as of now the mood is that the entire lockdown lifting is not possible. For us, lockdown is the only way to save our people,” Modi said.
Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Karnataka have informed New Delhi that the threat of Covid-19 would be easier to handle if the lockdown is prolonged, HT reported on Wednesday, citing an official who requested anonymity. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, too, have favoured an extended lockdown.
Here is a snapshot of some states’ stands on the extension.
As of now, the Assam government has decided not to pass any separate Odisha-style directive and to follow the Centre’s guidelines on the lockdown. The state cabinet will meet on April 12 after receiving guidelines from Centre on the lockdown.
The Assam government has suggested to the Centre a conditional relaxation of the lockdown in some areas and strict enforcement in other, more vulnerable regions, beyond April 14, state finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren told reporters after meeting experts that the state government would take a timely call on the lockdown, and listed out the factors to consider . “We know the impact of this pandemic if it spreads further. We lack health care facilities. We have sought the Centre’s help. We have made adequate arrangements for providing social security, especially providing food and rations to the needy. But we also need to factor in the impact lakhs of migrants who are stuck in other states would have once they return when we lift the lockdown...”
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state will take a decision on extending the three-week lockdown after the video conference with the Prime Minister on Saturday. The Indian Medical Association’s Kerala chapter and many health experts have called for the lockdown to be prolonged.
An expert committee constituted by the state government has suggested that the government lift the lockdown in three phases. It said the time was not ripe for a complete withdrawal after April 14.
The Haryana government is likely to go along with the central government’s decision on the lockdown. Indications that the state government is expecting an extended lockdown became apparent on Wednesday when chief minister ML Khattar held a video conference with leaders of opposition parties as well as religious denominations, seeking the latter’s help in persuading people to practice social distancing and abide by stay-at-home orders.
Officials said that they were also working on an exit plan in case the lockdown is relaxed after April 14. At the least, the four worst affected districts , Gurugram, Faridabad, Palwal and Nuh, which account for 114 of the 134 active Covid-19 cases in Haryana, are certain to face an extended lockdown.
Senior officials said the government could decide after Modi’s meeting with chief ministers on Saturday. State health minister Rajesh Tope indicated that the lockdown could continue and that people should not expect things to go back to normal after April 14. The state has seen a sharp spike in cases in urban areas, many of which are densely populated, and the administration might decide to continue the lockdown in these areas, the officials added.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has dropped hints that the lockdown will be extended. Covid-19 positive cases in Madhya Pradesh are increasing by the day and 13 districts are in the grip of the virus. “Whether or not lockdown period has to be extended will depend on the circumstances in the next one week. The situation in Indore and Bhopal is a matter of grave concern. If need be, the lockdown period can be extended but a decision on the same will depend on the circumstances. Life of people is more important to me. The economy can be revived, but t if we lose a life it can’t come back.”
In Karnataka, chief minister B S Yediyurappa said an expert panel of doctors has unanimously recommended that the lockdown be extended for another fortnight to contain the spread of Covid-19.
A final decision on the matter will be taken only after consulting PM Modi and experts on what to do he added– whether to extend the lockdown across the state or to selectively de-escalate it in districts where no Covid-19 cases have been reported as yet . Twelve of Karnataka’s 30 districts are free of the virus.
Senior health professionals last week advised Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar against lifting the lockdown fully, cautioning that it would defeat the purpose of containing the fast-spreading contagion. Additional chief secretary (home) Amir Subhani said it was up to thecentral government. “We will abide by the direction of the Centre,” he said.
Punjab has not taken any decision on the extension or relaxation of the lockdown so far. Chief minister Amarinder Singh’s media adviser Raveen Thukral said a decision would be taken after a cabinet meeting on Friday, April 10. Punjab was the first state to impose a curfew on March 23 because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath said on Sunday that the state the government will begin lifting the lockdown from April 15, but in a staggered manner. The next afternoon, in the backdrop of a rise in Covid-19 cases, additional chief secretary Awanish Awasthi said lifting the lockdown may not be possible when it ends.
On Wednesday, Adityanath said: “The state government--in consultation with the Union government--will decide, -may be on April 11-12, on the lockdown.” On Wednesday,the state government sealed 105 areas in 15 UP districts until April 15 to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee held a meeting with various chambers of commerce and representatives of micro, small and medium enterprises on Thursday to chalk out future plans on the lockdown.
The state has already relaxed restrictions on sweet shops, flower traders, the beedi industry and betel leaf traders.
“I will put across my views if the Prime Minister consults the states before announcing anything. If the Centre takes a decision we will abide by it,” Banerjee said on Wednesday. Banerjee has also advised people to maintain social distancing for at least 49 days.
The Uttarakhand cabinet, which met on Wednesday, decided that state government will recommend to the Central government to extend the lockdown , given a sudden increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the state.
Madan Kaushik, a cabinet minister and government spokesperson, said that until about a week ago, Uttarakhand had only seven cases of Covid-19 and the situation was under control. “But after several jamaatis (those who attended the March meting of Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi) tested positive, the total number of cases has surged to 35. Hence, we have decided to suggest that the Centre increase the lockdown period”
Telangana, Andhra Pradesh
Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has already pitched for an extension of the lockdown period for at least for two weeks and has instructed state officials to prepare for it.
The Andhra Pradesh government has not yet taken a decision on extending or exiting the lockdown.