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PM in Favour of Longer Lockdown Only in Red Zones, But Says Danger Not Over as Covid Deaths See Record Rise

New Delhi: In a clear indication that the coronavirus lockdown would continue beyond May 3 only in the worst-affected parts of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday told chief ministers that the country will have to give importance to economy as well as continue the fight against the pandemic.

While pitching for the partial reopening of the country, the Prime Minister, however, cautioned that the danger is far from over, as health ministry data showed a record number of 60 Covid-19 patients died in the last 24 hours.

Holding his fourth virtual meeting with the chief minister as India entered the last week of the 40-day nationwide lockdown, Modi called for the states to form an exit plan based on red, orange and green coding of districts and strongly pitched for ‘do gaz doori’ (a distance of two yards) to protect people from the infection.

Red zones are those districts that have a larger or cluster outbreak and have been classified as hotspots by the government, while orange and green zones have fewer and no cases respectively. Economic activities are likely to reopen in the last two categories.

Asserting that “the lockdown has yielded positive results as the country has managed to save thousands of lives in the past one and a half months”, Modi, however, forewarned that “the danger of the virus is far from over and constant vigilance is of paramount importance”.

Although the lockdown has helped slow down the trajectory, the total number of coronavirus cases on Monday increased to 28,380, with 1,456 cases being registered in the last one day. This is a dip from the record 1,975 cases reported on Sunday by the health ministry.

The number of active Covid-19 cases stood at 21,132, while 6,361 people have recovered, taking the recovery rate to 22.41 per cent.

The nationwide tally suggests that some large urban centres are facing the brunt of the deadly virus much more than many other parts of the country, with just three of them – Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad – accounting for almost one-third of the total positive cases in the country. These three also account for nearly 40 per cent of Covid-19 deaths.

Amid indications that the lockdown might get further extended, at least in the areas considered as ‘red zones’ or hotspots of the deadly virus spread, speculation was also rife about some relaxations including for private cars and economic activities outside the highly-infected areas.

However, most people said public transport, schools and colleges and public gatherings including those for religious purposes are likely to remain shut.

Chief Ministers of six states have asked the PM to consider extending the nationwide lockdown further.

While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that the lockdown should at least be extended till May 21, the other five CMs – Jaganmohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh, Pramod Sawant of Goa, Jai Ram Thakur of Himachal Pradesh, Zoramthanga of Mizoram and Conrad Sangma of Meghalaya – supported an extension without giving any set timeline.

The first lockdown was announced by Modi on March 24 in a bid to combat the coronavirus endemic. It was later extended till May 3, but has gradually lifted restrictions over the last two weeks, starting with agricultural activities and industries in rural areas.

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