The authorities in some states warned on Saturday that lockdowns to rein in the coronavirus pandemic could be extended in parts of the nation as the number of domestic coronavirus cases rose above the 3,000 mark.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a three-week lockdown on March 24 to avert a massive outbreak of infections.
But the world’s biggest shutdown has left millions without jobs and forced migrant workers to flee cities to their villages in search of food and shelter.
The country has recorded 3,072 coronavirus cases, of which 75 people have died. Maharashtra has 537 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – and 26 people have died.
“If people don’t obey the rules seriously and cases continue to rise, then there may be no option but to extend the lockdown,” state Health Minister Rajesh Tope told Reuters. “It could be extended in Mumbai and urban areas of Maharashtra by two weeks.”
The authorities have already set up 200-plus containment zones and sealed off building complexes or streets in Mumbai, where cases have been identified.
While the centre does plan to review the lockdown, set to end on April 14, three senior officials told Reuters this will depend on an assessment of the situation in each state, and lockdowns and restrictions would be extended in districts where the coronavirus case spread has continued.
Public transport in large cities such as Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi, may only be restored in a phased manner days after the lockdown ends, said the officials, who asked not to be named as the plans were still under discussion.
During a meeting with ministers on Saturday, PM Modi reviewed the readiness of hospitals and quarantine facilities, and directed officials to ensure sufficient availability of all essential medical protective equipment, his office said on Twitter.
PM Modi said on Saturday he had a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump about using the two countries’ partnership to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of COVID-19 cases have more than doubled across South Asia in the last week, surpassing 6,000. Health experts warn an epidemic in the region, home to a fifth of the world’s population, could overwhelm its already weak public health systems.