Lockdown: Centre, State governments hold key talks

Photo file of Amit Shah

Chennai: With just a day left for Lockdown 4.0 to end, the Central and State governments are holding crucial discussions before arriving at a final decision on whether to extend it or not.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and informed him about the views of all chief ministers on the extension of the ongoing nationwide lockdown beyond 31 May, officials said.

During the meeting, Amit Shah briefed Modi about the suggestions and the feedback he received from the Chief Ministers during his telephonic conversations on Thursday, a government official said.

The nationwide curbs were first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 March for 21 days in a bid to contain the spread of novel coronavirus. It was first extended till 3 May and then again till 17 May. The lockdown was further extended till 31 May.

The Home Minister’s telephonic conversations with the Chief Ministers came just three days before the end of the fourth phase of the lockdown.

During his talks with the Chief Ministers, Amit Shah sought to know the areas of concern of the states and the sectors they want to open up further from 1 June, the official said.

Interestingly, till now, it was Modi who had interacted with all chief ministers through video conference before extension of each phase of the coronavirus-induced lockdown and sought their views.

This was for the first time that the home minister spoke to the Chief Ministers individually before the end of another phase of the lockdown.

Amit Shah was present in all the conferences of chief ministers along with the Prime Minister. It is understood that majority of the chief ministers wanted the lockdown to continue in some form but also favoured opening up of the economic activities and gradual return of the normal life, another official said.

The central government is expected to announce its decision on the lockdown today or tomorrow.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India has climbed to 1,65,799 on Friday, making it the world”s ninth worst-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Ministry said the death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 4,706 in the country. While extending the fourth phase of the lockdown till May 31, the central government had announced continuation of prohibition on opening of schools, colleges and malls but allowed opening of shops and markets.

It said hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, malls, swimming pools, gyms will remain shut even as all social, political, religious functions, and places of worship will remain closed till 31 May.

The government, however, allowed limited operations of train and domestic flights. The Indian Railways is also running special trains since 1 May for transportation of migrant workers from different parts of the country to their native states.

In Tamilnadu, a day after holding a video conference with District Collectors and seeking their opinion on extension of lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami today held discussions with health experts.

Palaniswami on Friday said the virus spread has been contained in the state, excluding the densely populated Chennai which remains a challenge. District Collectors were instructed not to resort to suo motu relaxations and seek permission from the chief secretary.

The Chief Minister indicated that the COVID-19 lockdown might be extended beyond 31 May.


NT Bureau