India’s 21-day lockdown is set to end next week but several state leaders have called for an extension or only a partial lifting of restrictions, saying it is the only way to avoid a coronavirus epidemic that will be difficult to tackle.
India has so far escaped a big surge in cases after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked its 1.3 billion people to stay indoors in the world’s biggest lockdown last month that authorities have enforced tightly.
But shuttering down the $2.9 trillion economy has left millions of people without work and forced those who live on daily wages to flee to their homes in the countryside for food and shelter.
The chief minister of Telangana, which has been hit by a rash of cases tied to a Muslim religious gathering in Delhi, said the country could take the hit to the economy and that it was more important to save lives.
“I am for the lockdown of the country further more after April 15. Because, we can recover from the economic problem. But, we cannot get back lives,” K. Chandrasekhar Rao told reporters.
India has 4,421 coronavirus cases and 115 deaths, comparatively less than some countries such as the United States, where fatalities from the respiratory disease have topped 10,000.
Modi, who has faced criticism for ordering the lockdown with barely four hours’ notice is due to make a decision this week about whether to extend it.
The leaders of Assam and Chhattisgarh said they would like to keep the state borders closed or allow only restricted entry while they dealt with the infections.
“As and when the lockdown is withdrawn, we have to regulate those wanting to come to Assam,” said Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.