Centre Debating States Request To Extend Lock down: Sources

Centre Debating States Request To Extend Lock down:  Sources

Top government sources today said "a lot of state governments as well as experts" were requesting that the 21-day lockdown be extended beyond April 14. The central government is thinking in this direction, the sources said, adding that there is no final decision yet.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said people must be prepared for the long haul. At a cabinet meeting, he had urged ministers to come up with a "graded plan", which was seen to indicate a gradual rollback.

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said a decision on extending the lockdown would be taken "in the national interest" and would be declared "at the right time".

"We are monitoring the world situation every minute. A decision will be taken in the national interest. A decision in this regard will be declared at the right time," Mr Javadekar said, adding that an empowered group of officials was assessing the situation.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao is among those who has said the lockdown must continue.

"My personal opinion is that lockdown has to continue longer. We need to save lives, later we can save the economy," said Mr Rao, whose state has the fourth highest number of COVID-19 cases.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot favored a phased withdrawal of restrictions.

"We cannot withdraw lockdown immediately, it has to be done in a phased manner," Mr Gehlot was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

The BJP-led Assam government also said it would support any proposal by the central government of a "systematic and scientific" withdrawal of the nationwide lockdown.

"We have consulted within the state on what should be the mode of withdrawal of lockdown. We don't want that everything should be opened on 15th April morning. We want it to be a systematic and scientific withdrawal of lockdown so that the benefits during the lockdown aren't wasted in a single day," said Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.