Indicating a phased lifting of the current nationwide lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked the Union ministers to prepare a "graded plan" to slowly open departments in non-hotspots of the COVID-19, and work on a war footing to mitigate the adverse impact of the pandemic on country's economy.
India is currently under a 21-day lockdown from March 25, with only essential services exempted, to contain the fast-spreading virus, which has claimed more than 70,000 lives and afflicted over 12.8 lakh people across 183 countries.
Chairing a meeting of the council of ministers through video conferencing, Modi said, "a graded plan to slowly open departments, where hotspots aren't existing, should be made."
According to sources, the prime minister clearly indicated that the lifting of the lockdown in one go is very unlikely while discussing the modalities of lifting it.
He also asked the ministers whether the restrictions should be lifted sector-wise or district-wise, a source said.
Reiterating that lockdown measures and social distancing norms need to go hand in hand, Modi also told ministers to popularize Aarogya Setu app in the rural areas and grass-root institutions.
Referring to the impact of COVID-19 on country's economy, the prime minister said the government must work on war footing to mitigate the impact, adding that the ministries should prepare a business continuity plan.
To minimise the impact of the lockdown, the government had announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore financial package -- the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, besides taking a slew measures including extending filing of the income tax and GST.
Discussing the impact of COVID-19 on farmers and harvesting of crops, Modi asked the ministers to explore the use of innovative solutions like 'truck aggregators' on the lines of app-based cab services to connect farmers with mandis.
"Welfare of farmers is of high importance. Government would provide all possible help to farmers in the harvesting season," Modi said and suggested use of technology and encouraging exploration of innovative solutions in agriculture.