- PM Modi held a four-hour video meet with at least 13 chief ministers
- All the chief ministers asked PM Modi to extend the lockdown
- The lockdown was scheduled to end on Tuesday
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"PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown. Today, India's position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is imp to extend it," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted minutes after the meeting.
Most Chief Ministers who attended the video conference pointed out that they may not have the massive resources needed to deal with a spurt in COVID-19 cases if the lockdown is removed sooner. The chief ministers asked the centre for relief packages.
"Extend the lockdown. We're not short on infrastructure to deal with coronavirus, but the question is of implementing policies effectively. PM Modi has always welcomed the suggestions of states," Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.
"It is important to extend the nation-wide lockdown... We need a common relief policy for rabi (winter) crop," Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the lockdown extension should be done in a "humane and practical" manner, adding the economy of her state has suffered.
PM Modi is likely to give a televised address to the nation again to announce the lockdown extension. At the end of the four-hour meet on Saturday, PM Modi said he will allow industries and construction work to reopen in a graded manner. Other restrictions are also likely to be eased in a graded manner and another economic package for farmers is expected.
PM Modi indicated that farmers would be allowed to sell to consumers directly from their fields if wholesale vegetable markets, or mandis, are shut down. For example, the mandis in Mumbai and Pune are closed. This direct selling, to be made possible by amending the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, will be needed to feed a nation of 1.3 billion and prevent inflationary trends, sources said.
Odisha and Punjab have already announced an extension of the lockdown. Shortly after the meeting both Maharashtra and Telangana also announced an extension. The Bihar government in a letter to the centre raised no objection to extending the lockdown; however, it wants an exception for rural construction and flood relief work to continue, sources have told NDTV. Bihar saw massive floods last year and rebuilding projects are still going on.
Delhi has identified three new coronavirus hotspots, it was announced late Saturday night. This takes the total number up to 33 - up from 25 on Thursday and 30 on Friday. One hotspot - Dilshad Garden - has seen no new coronavirus cases in over 10 days, leading the government to declare it infection-free. However, it remains sealed and under observation.
The highly infectious COVID-19 has killed 273 people in the country. The total number of positive coronavirus cases has crossed 8,000.
The highest number of cases has been reported from Maharashtra, with 1,761 people testing positive for the novel coronavirus that was first detected in China in December. A novel virus is one that has not been previously identified in humans.