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Coronavirus: Centre discusses roadmap to implement staggered lifting of lockdown


HYDERABAD/LUCKNOW/NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday discussed the staggering lifting of the 21-day lockdown clamped in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. On the other end of the spectrum were states like Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, which suggested full extension of the lockdown.

An Empowered Group on Strategic Issues, chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, considered the views of over a dozen secretaries to draw up a roadmap on the way forward. They discussed a graded exit plan and sector-wise impact assessment and demand. 

Pressing issues regarding agriculture and aviation sectors were deliberated upon, a senior officer said. For instance, how many flights should be allowed in the initial stages and how many districts would require manpower and materials for harvesting, were discussed threadbare. 

Concerns of farmers regarding Kharif sowing were also shared. However, officials pointed out that since agriculture and its allied sectors were on the list of the essential services, Kharif farming won’t be a problem. 

The plight of migrant workers was flagged with officials of the labour ministry saying another package could be announced to ensure they are provided with basic necessities like food and water.

“We also discussed how to take the media and communications forward. We are evolving a plan on how to go about it in the post-lockdown phase. We are planning how to communicate (to the public) around April 14-15, and how to improve our communications,” said a source who attended the meeting.

Earlier in the day, Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao suggested the extension of the lockdown beyond April 14 — by one or two weeks. He shared his thoughts with PM Narendra Modi during a phone call on Sunday. KCR said: “Economy no doubt is going to suffer but it could be revived back into life. But we cannot bring back lives, once we lose them.”

He pointed to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, which suggested that lockdown should extend till June 3 in India for any improvement. UP appeared to echo KCR, though the word came from officials.

“The lockdown will not be removed till a single person with the virus is found,” said Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Awanish Awasthi. Chief Secretary R K Tiwari said it may be extended if the situation does not improve by April 14.