India PM Narendra Modi rules out nationwide lockdown


India's Prime Minster Narendra Modi.

Photo credit: AFP

India's Premier Narendra Modi has ruled out nationwide lockdowns as a measure to fight Covid-19 pandemic.

This comes following speculations over possible lockdowns to curb the virus with several states imposing restrictions on movement.

Speaking during a 20 minute live address to the nation, the premier urged young people to help in the fight against the pandemic. "We have to protect the nation from lockdowns. I urge states to treat lockdowns as the last resort and step out only when necessary. We need to focus on micro-containment and I call upon the youth of India to form small committees and help in Covid administration in their areas. If that happens, the government will not have to put containment zones or lockdowns," he said.

Mr Modi insists that the nation has fought against the coronavirus with what he terms as discipline and patience and must continue to do so.

Lockdowns imposed

Meanwhile Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope has disclosed that all Maharashtra State ministers have requested Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to impose a complete lockdown in the state from 8 pm on Wednesday.

"We have made our request. Now it is up to the CM to take the final call," he said in an interview.

On Tuesday, the country's Covid-19 tally went over the 15.3 million-mark after 259,170 new coronavirus cases and 1,761 deaths  were  recorded in 24 hours according to the ministry of health.

India now has more than 2 million officially recorded active cases of Covid-19, currently the second-highest number in the world after the US. 

According to reports, the premier has held several meetings over the past few days with chief ministers (equivalent of governors in Kenya), governors, senior central government officials, doctors, pharmaceutical industry players as well as vaccine manufacturers.

The meetings took place in the backdrop of a steep rise in coronavirus infections which has led to the subsequent pressure on the national healthcare infrastructure in the country.

Lack of oxygen

Mr Modi assured that his government is trying to meet the demand for oxygen and hospital beds across the Asian country.

"The demand for oxygen has increased in many parts of the country. The Centre, state government, private sector are trying to make oxygen available to all those who are in need of it," he said.

He  had earlier in the day interacted with vaccine manufacturers in the country via video conferencing urging  them to continuously scale up the production capacity to vaccinate people in the shortest possible time.

India will embark on vaccinating any adult in the country as from May 1.

He acknowledged the challenge ahead terming it as 'big' and pleaded with all players to overcome it with resolve, courage and preparation.

"We are facing the second wave of Covid-19 now. I understand the pain you are going through and express my sympathies to the families who have lost their loved ones due to Covid," the PM said.

While reacting to the national address, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that hospitals are facing severe shortage of oxygen requesting the national government to supply as soon as possible.

His deputy Manish Sisodia echoing the sentiments adding that many hospitals in the capital are just down to hours of oxygen.

On Monday, India locked down its capital New Delhi for a week in effort to control the spread of coronavirus.

Rising Covid cases

Mr Kejriwal said the capital's "health system is at a tipping point".

"If we don't impose a lockdown now, we will be looking at a bigger disaster."

Kejriwal added that businesses would be shut and movement around the city of 20 million limited to essential services.

The week-long total lockdown comes after the capital recorded more than 25,000 Covid-19 cases in a single day.

New Delhi on Sunday recorded the biggest jump in its daily Covid-19 tally with 25,462 new cases, while the positivity rate shot up to 29.74 per cent. 

This means that almost every third sample being tested in the city is turning out to be positive.