NEW DELHI, April 27 - As India entered the last week of the 40-day nationwide lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday told chief ministers that the country will have to give importance to economy as well as continue the fight against coronavirus, in a clear indication that strict restrictions could be limited to COVID-19 hotspots while curbs can be eased gradually in areas not affected by the virus.
In a video conference with the chief ministers, fourth such interaction since March 22 when he first spoke to them about the pandemic, Modi stressed on the need for the states to strictly enforce lockdown guidelines in the coronavirus hotspots zones, and strongly pitched for the mantra of do gaz doori (a distance of two yards) to protect people from the infection, according to a government statement.
During the meeting, a majority of the chief ministers wanted the lockdown to continue after May 3 and told the Prime Minister that some economic activity should be started slowly, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy told reporters.
Asserting that �the lockdown has yielded positive results as the country has managed to save thousands of lives in the past one and a half months�, Modi, however, forewarned that �the danger of the virus is far from over and constant vigilance is of paramount importance�.
He also asked the states to focus on �rapid response� in dealing with the pandemic, adding wearing masks and face covers would become part of people�s lives for times to come.
India is under a 40-day nationwide lockdown since March 25.
The first phase of the nationwide lockdown of 21 days was announced by Modi on March 24, it was later extended by 19 days till May 3 to cut the transmission of the virus.
The Prime Minister�s interaction with the chief ministers came amid calls from some states to allow economic activities to reduce the devastating impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the economy as well as on livelihoods of lakhs of migrant workers.
�We have to give importance to the economy as well as continue the fight against COVID -19,� Modi said, adding it is important for �states to enforce guidelines strictly in the hotspots i.e the red zone areas and the efforts of the states should be directed towards converting the red zones into orange and thereafter to green zones.�
Sources in the government said the lockdown may be lifted in a gradual manner and restrictions are likely to continue in the coronavirus hotspots.
Chief ministers were unanimous in telling the Prime Minister that there should be a cautious approach in lifting the lockdown, given that the coronavirus cases were still rising in the country, Naraynswamy said.
�The Prime Minister should take a call on what needs to be done,� he added. � PTI