Coronavirus: India to extend world's largest lockdown by two weeks

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to extend curbs beyond April 14 was taken after meeting with state chief ministers

A women wearing a facemask walks past a Covid-19 awareness scarecrow placed by Chennai municipality at a market during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Chennai on April 11, 2020.  / AFP / Arun SANKAR
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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to extend the world's biggest pandemic lockdown for two weeks, state ministers said after talks on Saturday.

The three-week nationwide lockdown was to end on Tuesday. With the death toll rising, several chief ministers from India's 29 states and territories have pressed Mr Modi to prolong restrictions for the 1.3 billion population.

Two states – Odisha and Punjab – have already extended the lockdown by about two weeks, but critics said a nationwide lockdown was needed to stop people moving between states and perhaps taking the virus with them.

India has reported about 8,500 cases and 290 deaths, but the government said there was no community transmission.

Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said Mr Modi had taken the "correct decision" by extending the lockdown.

"Today, India's position is better than many developed countries because we started (the) lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost," Mr Kejriwal posted on Twitter after the meeting.

Other ministers who took part in the video conference talks told media the lockdown would go on for another two weeks.

The government made no immediate announcement, and officials said Mr Modi may not make a statement until Sunday.

According to reports, the Hindu-nationalist government was worried about the impact of the restrictions and ban on international flights on the economy, which was slowing even before the pandemic crisis blew up.

Millions of people have lost jobs in the past three weeks, and the lockdown sparked a mass migration as workers headed for their home villages.

Every state has now declared a coronavirus case, but Maharashtra, which includes the financial capital Mumbai, has been among the worst hit. The western state accounted for more than 1,600 cases and more than 110 deaths in India's total.

The coronavirus is spreading in Mumbai's Dharavi district, one of Asia's biggest slums.

Mumbai council spokesman Vijay Khabale-Patil said that more cases had been uncovered at "extensive medical camps in Dharavi and other areas of Mumbai to test more people".

He said there were now 28 cases in the slum and three people had died there.

The capital, Delhi, has reported a growing toll with more than 180 cases declared on Friday, taking the total to 865.

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