NEW DELHI: The continuous rise in the number of people testing positive for coronavirus is expected to stabilise sometime soon, Niti Aayog member V K Paul said on Sunday.
He also said the rationale behind the government's decision to extend the lockdown by two more weeks after May 3 is to consolidate the gains of the first and second phase of restrictions.
In an interview to PTI, Paul said sudden spurt in number of coronavirus cases is still amenable to containment strategy.
"The rationale (behind extending the lockdown till May 17) is that the gains of lockdown need to be consolidated in the country. Real goal of lockdown was to suppress the chain of transmission of the virus. So, we will lose that, if we abruptly end it," he said.
Paul, who is heading an Empowered Group on medical equipment and management plan to tackle coronavirus outbreak, said that at the same time where situation is good, the opening will take place with caution and care.
Replying to a question that whether India has slipped into community transmission stage, he said, "Essentially, we think it (continuous rise in coronavirus cases) is still amenable to containment strategy".
He also noted that India is nowhere close to the kind of escalation of coronavirus cases that it witnessed during the pre-lockdown phase.
"In the pre-lockdown stage, we were doubling our number of cases in every five days. Before that even at every 3 days. Now, we are doubling in 11-12 days.
"So, overall the rate of spread has diminished but yes the number still has not stabilised. But we expect it to stabilise anytime," the Niti Aayog member said.
Reacting to criticism that India is not doing enough tests, Paul said India's testing strategy has been fine-tuned from time to time based on the stage of coronavirus disease.
"And we have build and increased our capacities. Today, we are doing more than 50,000 tests every day and we have done more than 7 lakh tests total," he pointed out.
On what will be the new normal after the lockdown ends, the Niti Aayog member said working from home wherever possible, will become a new normal until pandemic is totally extinguished.
"After the lockdown ends, our new normal is going to be be very different.
There will be no big collection of people, there will be no religion congregation or big events.
"We will have to wear masks. Lots of things will change until the pandemic is totally extinguished," he observed.
The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 1,301 and the number of cases climbed to 39,980 in the country on Sunday, according to the Union Health Ministry.
The Centre has extended the lockdown by two more weeks after May 3, when the second phase of these restrictions was scheduled to end.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had first announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown from March 25, which was later extended by two more weeks to contain the virus spread.
However, several experts have cautioned that the lockdown is severely impacting the economy and many rating agencies and industry bodies have forecast a sharp dip in the country's economic growth rate for the current fiscal.