Need to strengthen economic activities, combat Covid-19: PM Modi to CMs

Need to strengthen economic activities, combat Covid-19: PM Modi to CMs

India is focusing on a two-pronged strategy aimed at saving lives of its citizens while also restarting economic activities that have come to a virtual standstill due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told chief ministers in a video conference on Monday.

All chief ministers, or their representatives, were present during the discussions on India’s response to the deadly infection and the way ahead, but just nine of them could speak due to time constraints.

While Meghalaya said it will likely extend the lockdown announced to stop the spread of the contagion beyond May 3, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh felt curbs should be in place but left the decision to the Prime Minister, according to officials aware of the developments.

Others — Mizoram, Puducherry, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Bihar and Haryana — who got the chance to speak in the fourth such meeting between Modi and the CMs since March 22 supported the lifting of the lockdown.

Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown that came into place on March 25. Later, he extended the curbs till May 3 as Covid-19 cases continued rising in the country.

In his address, Modi underlined the key challenge India was facing — that of balancing lives and livelihood. With economic activity coming to a halt, workers in the unorganised sector are staring at a bleak future and millions of jobs are on the line in the organised sector. At the same time, India’s front line health care staff are fighting a battle to slow the rate of the deadly disease.

“..on the one hand, we are challenged by how to save lives...on the other, we also have to equally focus on the financial aspect of this....That’s why we have to strengthen economic activities... (and) increase our strength to combat the virus,” he said, according to a person aware of the details.

Modi said areas that are hard hit by the disease will also suffer the maximum impact on the economy front. The Prime Minister said with the restarting of conditional and limited economic activities from April 20, India’s challenges have increased too. “We have to analyse whether these led to new kind of challenges in these areas,” he said.

He said authorities should look at the strategy in all three zones demarcated by the government —green zones (with no cases), orange zone (a few cases) and red zones (with a high number of cases).

“I would like that red zones and hot spots to show extra caution...we should make special teams in those areas,” he said, stressing the task will be to keep the safe zones safe.

Modi reiterated that social distancing --- of at least two yards --- was the need of the hour, and authorities cannot compromise on this aspect in the fight against the fast-spreading infection. He also advocated the need for wearing masks.

“This should be made into a mantra for all: ‘do gaj doori (a distance of two yards)’. We have to keep spreading this message and it should be a life lesson for all. In the same way, masks or face covers should become a major part of our lives.”

Modi stressed that there will be no discrimination against states on the basis of the number of infections and all will be equally treated.

“With all humility, I want to tell CMs, if there is a spike in cases, your state will not be seen as guilty. If cases are low in your state, it will not be seen as a great (achievement). We don’t want this sentiment...,” he said.

Modi also asked the health sector to be prepared to tackle seasonal diseases despite the pandemic.

“In June, there are particular diseases associated with the heat. We have to get our systems ready and started for this. Some doctors have shut their clinics and we have to operationalise them. All services cannot stop for coronavirus,” he said.