Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held talks with the chief ministers of the country’s 28 states to decide on what restrictions should be kept in place once the strict shutdown for its 1.3 billion people ends on May 3.
Modi said the risk from the virus was far from over, although India had been able to save thousands of lives because of its extended lockdown, a government statement quoted him as saying.
India has reported 28,379 confirmed infections of the coronavirus, according to government data on Monday, the highest number in Asia after China. So far, 886 people have died, nowhere near the levels the United States, Italy and Spain have suffered.
Health experts say India is testing far less per capita than many countries and the virus is lurking undetected. Still, a surge in hospitalisations has not happened across the country, strengthening the case for lifting some curbs.
“(The) Prime Minister said that we have to give importance to the economy as well as continue the fight against COVID -19,” the government statement said.
India’s economy, which was already growing at its slowest pace in years before the pandemic struck, could contract in the fiscal year that began in April, private economists say, making jobs even more scarce for its young population.
One way out of the 40-day lockdown would be to allow the least-affected parts of the country to return to activity while keeping a tight lid on hot zones which include major cities like Mumbai and Delhi, officials said.