India extends nationwide lockdown by two weeks

Home Ministry announces partial relaxation of measures to restart economic activity

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India will extend its nationwide lockdown by two weeks from May 4 but will ease it in some areas to revive economic activity that has been stalled during the isolation restrictions since March 25.

There will be no movement between states allowed in this time but authorities will partially relax measures in areas where no new coronavirus infections have been reported, the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Friday.

India's armed forces pay tribute to 'corona warriors'

India's armed forces pay tribute to 'corona warriors'

Stricter measures will continue in places classified as "red zones", such as New Delhi and Mumbai, and "orange zones", which have some cases.

In "green zones", or low-risk areas, some movement of people and economic activity will be allowed, the ministry said.

Industrial plants in urban areas, including special economic zones, will be allowed to operate, it said.

And manufacturing centres for essential goods, including drugs, medical devices and IT hardware production, will also be allowed to restart, the ministry said.

Private offices and government departments can operate at a third of their capacity.

Officials say the nation has bolstered its domestic production for key medical supplies such as ventilators, oxygen and personal protective equipment.

The government says it has almost 20,000 ventilators and 43.8 million oxygen cylinders.

But with an expected surge in cases after the relaxation of some measures, officials estimated a demand for 75,000 ventilators in the coming weeks.

Of this, 60,000 will be made in India. The government estimates it will need 3.5 million standard kits for its 1.3 billion people.

The lockdown was initially for three weeks but was extended until May 3.

The number of new infections being reported in the country has not fallen despite the 40-day lockdown.

India had reported slightly more than 600 infections and 10 deaths on March 25 when the strict curbs came into effect.

There are now more than 35,000 infections and 1,000 deaths, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.

India’s easing of restrictions is primarily aimed at reviving its economy, which could be heading for its first full-year contraction in more than four decades.

The world’s biggest lockdown has crippled business activity, put a lid on consumption and resulted in widespread job losses and pay cuts.

The country had eased some restrictions on April 20 to allow farmers and some industries to resume operations in rural areas and in districts that were free of infections.

The Home Ministry on Wednesday said that daily wage workers stranded without jobs or income because of the lockdown had been allowed to go home by road under certain conditions.

Train services were resumed from Friday to move migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other people stranded across the country.

The trains will run from point-to-point on the request of state governments.

Local authorities also have to screen the passengers and only those found to be asymptomatic would be allowed to travel, the home ministry said.