Emphasising the continuing spread of the disease and that adherence to social distancing and lockdown alone can be the bulwark, the PM said tougher enforcement of the twin prescriptions could be extended beyond April 20 if intensive monitoring stretching down to “each block and and police station” showed violations or growth of infections.
With Tuesday’s decision, the period of the lockdown, which began on March 25, would extend to 40 days.
“We have to be very vigilant about hotspots and be alert about places which run the risk of becoming hotspots. The creation of new hotspots will nullify our hard work and discipline and create new challenges. Hence, we have to step up the alertness and strictness in the next week. Until April 20, every town, every police station, every district, every state will be evaluated on how much the lockdown is being followed. The extent to which a region has protected itself from the virus will be evaluated. Those who clear this trial by fire and don’t risk into becoming hotspots will be allowed to ensure certain necessary activities from April 20,” he said in his address to the nation.
However, the Prime Minister made it clear that the partial exemptions would be reversed “immediately” for non-compliance noticed by the authorities.
Keep in mind, this permission will be conditional, and the rules for going out will be very strict. Permission will be withdrawn immediately if lockdown rules are breached and there is a risk of spread of coronavirus. Hence, we don’t just have to behave ourselves but ensure that others also follow the rules,” PM modi said.
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The much-awaited address was delivered against the backdrop of the PM’s interaction with chief ministers in which he appeared to be considering a switch from “jaan hai to jahaan hai” approach to the one which sought a balance to safeguard lives with the reopening of the economy (jaan bhi aur jahaan bhi). At 10am, however, he came out as focused on privileging lives over other considerations even as he candidly acknowledged the cost of the trade-off.
“If looked at purely from the prism of economy, this has indeed been expensive for us. It has cost us a lot, but that pales before the value of lives of Indians and cannot be a deterrent,” he said.
In his address, the PM did hint at a partial reopening of sectors of the economy for the sake of dailywagers whose survival depend on what they earn and said the guidelines to be issued shortly by the government would address their needs. “The exemptions being finalised are being crafted with an eye on the poor. Those who earn daily, make ends meet with daily income, they are my family. One of my top-most priorities is to reduce the difficulties in their lives. The government has made every possible effort to help them through the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojna. Their interests have also been taken care of while making the new guidelines,” the PM said.
“Drawing comparisons with others in such situations is not right. Yet, facts cannot be denied and it is true that as compared to many resourceful countries, India has been able to manage the situation well…,” the PM said.
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However, just like in his last addresses on the pandemic, he was starkly candid in underlining the threat and in emphasising the need for people to remain vigilant. He said the continuing spread of the virus has emphasised upon governments and health experts the world over the need for extreme vigil. “We must not let coronavirus spread to new areas at any cost. A single new patient at even the smallest local level should be a matter of concern for us. The tragic death of even a single patient from coronavirus should worry us even more,” he said, stressing the need for continuing the lockdown and the support of chief ministers and others for it.
Modi praised people tor the fortitude with which they had endured inconvenience to “help India ward off, to a very substantial extent, the damage caused by coronavirus”.