Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday extended until May 3 the nationwide lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus, but said the restrictions could be eased after April 20 in the least affected parts of the country to allow essential activities.
"Till May 3, each and every one of us will have to remain in the lockdown. During this time, we must continue maintaining discipline in the way we have been doing till now. It is my request and prayer to all fellow citizens that we must not let Coronavirus spread to new areas at any cost," said the Prime Minister in his 25-minute televised address to the nation.
"Let us extend the strictness and austerity in the fight against coronavirus for the upcoming one week." The government will release detailed guidelines tomorrow, he said.
He said till April 20, "every town, every police station, every district, every state" would be evaluated on how effectively the lockdown was being followed. "The extent to which each region has protected itself from coronavirus will be noted. Areas that will succeed in this litmus test, which will not be in the hot-spot category, and which will be less likely to turn into hot-spots, may be allowed to open up select necessary activities from April 20," said PM Modi.
The permission would be conditional, he asserted, and the rules for going out would remain strict. "Permission will be withdrawn immediately if lockdown rules are broken, and spread of Coronavirus risked. Hence, we must make sure we ourselves don't become careless, not allow anyone else do so," he said.
Limited exemption would be granted to some areas to help the poorest, the PM said, amid concerns about thousands losing their jobs because of factories, construction activities and shops shutting down.
"Those who earn daily, make ends meet with daily income, they are my family. One of my top-most priorities is to reduce their difficulties," he said, promising some relief for them in guidelines to be put out by the government.
India has 10,363 coronavirus cases, including 339 deaths. The country would have been facing a frightening situation had it not acted fast, PM Modi said.
"The nation has benefited greatly from social distancing and the lockdown. If we only look at it from the economic standpoint it looks expensive - we've had to pay a huge cost, but it is nothing compared to the lives of Indians," he said.