NEW DELHI: The Centre on Wednesday gave clear indications that the ongoing nationwide lockdown will be extended beyond May 3 but with "considerable relaxations" to people and services in "many districts".
The Ministry of Home Affairs, however, said there was a need to maintain a strict lockdown till May 3 so that the gains are not squandered away. The nationwide lockdown was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 in a bid to combat the coronavirus threat. It was further extended till May 3.
In a series of tweets, the Union Home Ministry said it has held a comprehensive review meeting on the lockdown situation in the country and has found that there have been tremendous gains and improvement in the COVID-19 situation due to the lockdown till now.
"New guidelines to fight #COVID19 will come into effect from 4th May, which shall give considerable relaxations to many districts. Details regarding this shall be communicated in the days to come," the home ministry spokesperson tweeted.
New guidelines to fight #COVID19 will come into effect from 4th May, which shall give considerable relaxations to many districts. Details regarding this shall be communicated in the days to come.#coronavirus update#StayHomeStaySafe@PMOIndia @HMOIndia @MoHFW_INDIA— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) April 29, 2020
The first guidelines were issued on March 24 immediately after the prime minister announced the lockdown for 21 days. The guidelines, issued under the Disaster Management Act by the Union Home Secretary, specified the people and services exempted from the lockdown.
The home ministry spokesperson also said to ensure that these gains are not squandered away, the lockdown guidelines should be strictly observed till May 3. The home ministry's tweets tagged the Prime Minister's Office, Home Minister's Office and the Ministry of Health with a hashtag "#StayHomeStaySafe".
The Telangana government has already extended the lockdown till May 7 while the Punjab government extended it for two more weeks beyond May 3. Several chief ministers, who attended a meeting convened by the prime minister on Monday, have sought the extension of the lockdown as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country.
The number of COVID-19 hotspot districts in India on Wednesday has come down to 129 from 170 a fortnight ago, but in the same period the number of infection-free districts or green zones too decreased from 325 to 307.
During this time, the number of non-hotspot districts, also known as orange zones, increased from 207 to 297. On April 15, the Centre had declared 170 districts across 25 states and Union Territories as coronavirus hotspots or red zones.
Of these, 123 were hotspot districts with large outbreaks and 47 with clusters. It had also said 325 districts had not reported any coronavirus case because of actions initiated at the field level.
According to the Health Ministry data, the number of coronavirus cases in the country climbed to 31,787 and the number of fatalities rose to 1,008 on Wednesday, registering a record jump of 71 deaths in 24 hours.
There has been a spike of 1,813 cases since Tuesday evening. The total COVID-19 cases reported so far include 111 foreign nationals. The government has already allowed industrial activities in rural areas with conditions.
Similarly, apart from the shops for the essential commodities, standalone business establishments of non-essential goods were also allowed to open during the lockdown. Movement of essential and non-essential cargos are also allowed through trucks and trains.
On Wednesday, the home ministry allowed movement of migrant workers, students, tourists and other people with certain conditions.