Lockdown 4.0 imminent, ball in states' court now
India, locked down since March 25, will not get any reprieve from restrictions any time soon, an announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last evening confirmed. The fourth phase of restrictions will be different, he underlined, hinting that states will be given more responsibility. This announcement came a day after he held a video-conference with all the Chief Ministers to discuss the next steps.
In his televised address, PM Modi said the country needs to become more self-reliant and defeat coronavirus. To boost the economy, he announced a Rs. 20 lakh crore package (10% of GDP), details of which will be made public by the Finance Ministry. He said economy, infrastructure, system, demography, and demand, are five pillars that will help India come out stronger from this pandemic.
Before concluding his speech, PM Modi said, "Corona is here to stay, experts say. But we cannot let our lives be controlled by corona. We will have to live with it. We will wear masks and maintain physical distancing but not give up on our dreams." He added the lockdown, with different rules, will be extended and details will be released before May 18.
The third chapter of lockdown is supposed to end on May 17, but PM Modi confirmed over a billion Indians will live under restrictions for some more time. Reports said this time, states will be given more authority in designating hotspots. Till now, Centre labeled districts as red zones and several CMs told PM Modi this model wasn't working on the ground.
"We have asked states to share their inputs and views with us by May 15. These will be factored in the next list. In all probability zoning will not happen by districts but instead by smaller administrative units," a government official told Indian Express.
A state government official who attended the PM-CM meeting said states understood the situation better. "One positive case in a major municipality or corporation will push the whole district into a red zone making it difficult for us to open shops, offices, and businesses. Maybe a ward of that municipal area is enough to contain it," the person told IE.
Separately, TOI said PM Modi's statements suggest an exit from lockdown will be accompanied by a strategy to contain the hotspots. Opening up businesses with reduced staff while maintaining social distancing yielded good results, and this could continue. E-commerce companies could be allowed to deliver non-essential items too. Currently, these items are only delivered in the green and orange zones.
This week, the government showed it wants to take steps towards normalcy by allowing select passenger trains to run. 15 twin trains (30 journeys in total) were allowed to ferry passengers starting Tuesday. All these trains have AC coaches and no concession on fare was given. Passengers were asked to arrive 90 minutes early at the station for thermal screening.