All educational institutions should remain closed for another four weeks and the ban on religious gatherings should also be extended for a similar period, a Group of Ministers proposed today. Sources said these could be an indication that the government, which is expected to lift the countrywide lockdown over coronavirus, will do so in a staggered manner.
The three-week lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Mach 24, is expected to end on April 14. But with the number of coronavirus cases showing a steady rise, several states, including BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, has indicated that they would prefer an extension. While government sources said it is considering the states’ proposal, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar yesterday said a decision would be taken “in the national interest” at the right time.
At their fourth meeting on COVID-19 since Mach 25 today, the ministers recommended an extension of the closure of all educational institutions irrespective of whether the lockdown is extended or not, sources said. Most schools and colleges are expected to have summer vacation shortly.
The ministers also suggested that places where the public have a tendency to gather in large numbers — such as religious centres — should be closely monitored. Increased monitoring through drones was also suggested.
The meeting — attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh — also suggested that along with religious centres and educational institutions, shopping malls must also not be allowed to resume normal functioning for at least for four weeks from April 14, when the current lockdown ends.
Over the last 24 hours, the country registered 508 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 4,789. The number of deaths rose to 124, showed health ministry data.
Telangana, which also suggested an extension of lockdown, quoted a survey by Boston Consulting Group, which advised lockdown till June 3. According to it, the coronaviruis cases in the country will peak by June 1, state minister KT Rama Rao told NDTV today.