Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday (April 11) held a video conference with chief ministers primarily to take their feedback on whether the 21-day nationwide lockdown should be extended beyond April 14 to control the rise in COVID-19 cases.
“I am available 24×7. Any chief minister can speak to me and give suggestions (on COVID-19) anytime. We should stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder,” Modi said.
The initial visuals of the meeting showed Modi wearing a white mask during the interaction with various chief ministers including Amarinder Singh (Punjab), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Uddhav Thackeray (Maharashtra), Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh), Manohar Lal (Haryana), K Chandrashekhar Rao (Telangana), and Nitish Kumar (Bihar).
A few chief ministers – Arvind Kejriwal, Amarinder Singh, and Uddhav Thackeray sought the extension of the lockdown till April 30 during the meeting.
The Central government is understood to have also obtained views on the issue from all the relevant agencies and stakeholders involved in the efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic.
The video conference, which began at 11 am, comes amidst indications that the central government may extend the nationwide lockdown with a few possible relaxations even as Punjab and Odisha have already announced extending the lockdown beyond April 14 when the current spell of 21-day shutdown across the country ends on Tuesday.
The Union Home Ministry has sought views of state governments on various aspects, including whether more categories of people and services need to be exempted. In the current lockdown, only essential services are exempted.
This is the second time where the prime minister is interacting with the chief ministers via video conference after the lockdown was imposed.
During his April 2 interaction with chief ministers, Modi had pitched for a “staggered” exit from the ongoing lockdown.
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A PTI tally of numbers reported by various states as on Thursday (April 9) at 9.30 pm showed a total of 7,510 having been affected by the virus nationwide so far with at least 251 deaths. More than 700 have been cured and discharged. However, the last update from the Union Health Ministry put the number of confirmed infections at 7,447 and the death toll at 239.
Addressing floor leaders of various parties who have representation in Parliament, Modi had on Wednesday made it clear that the lockdown cannot be lifted in one go, asserting that the priority of his government is to “save each and every life”.
According to an official statement after the Wednesday interaction, the prime minister told these leaders that states, district administrations and experts have suggested extension of the lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
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.
(With inputs from agencies)