Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held a video conference with chief ministers to discuss the situation arising due to the coronavirus pandemic in the country, which has been under a lockdown since March 25 to contain the spread of the virus, amid indications that the interaction would also focus on a graded exit from the ongoing lockdown.
This is Modi's fourth such interaction with state chief ministers since March 22 when he discussed coronavirus situation and steps taken --both by the Centre and the states-- to contain the pandemic. Two days later on March 24, Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown. He extended the lockdown by 19 days on April 14, the last day of the initial three week shutdown, till May 3.
Sources in the government had on Sunday indicated that besides discussing the way forward in dealing with the pandemic, the prime ministers and chief ministers could also focus on a "graded" exit from the lockdown.
The Centre and the state governments have been giving gradual relaxation in various fields and sectors to boost economic activities as also to provide relief to people. But some states are willing to extend the lockdown beyond May 3 to ensure that coronavirus cases remain under control.
In his monthly 'Mann ki Baat' radio address on Sunday, the prime minister said the country is in the middle of a 'yudh' (war) and asserted that people have to continue being careful and take precautions.
His note of caution comes against the backdrop of the Union government and states relaxing lockdown norms to revive economic activities.
"I urge you not to get overconfident. You should in your over-enthusiasm not think that if the coronavirus has not yet reached your city, village, street or office, it is not going to reach now. Never make such a mistake. The experience of the world tells us a lot in this regard," he said.
Modi referred to a popular Hindi idiom 'Sawdhani hati, durghatna ghati' (accident happens when caution is lowered) to make his point.
The Centre has now allowed neighbourhood and standalone shops, including those located in residential complexes, in urban areas to open during the lockdown. But those in the markets continue to remain shut till May 3.
In rural areas, all shops, except those in shopping malls, are allowed to open.
In a late night order on Friday, the Home Ministry also said malls continue to remain shut but markets in rural areas can open.
However, opening of shops located in COVID-19 hotspot and containment zones, sale of non-essential items by e-commerce platforms and sale of liquor continue to be prohibited.
In the last interaction on April 11, several chief ministers had recommended extension of the 21-day lockdown by two weeks, which was slated to end on April 14 earlier.
On April 14, the prime minister had announced that the lockdown is being extended till May 3.
Before the lockdown was announced on March 24, the prime minister had interacted with the chief ministers on March 20 to discuss ways and means to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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