Centre may extend lockdown after May 31

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Agencies

New Delhi

The central government is likely to extend the lockdown in some form by another two weeks after May 31 to stop the spread of coronavirus but there could be even more relaxations in the offing.

A top source in the government described the next phase as “lockdown extension in spirit”, and said most of the focus would be on 11 cities that account for nearly 70 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in the country.

This includes the six major metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, as well as Pune, Thane, Jaipur, Surat and Indore.

The number of reported coronavirus cases in India has passed 1.5 lakh, doubling in the last 14 days to 151,767, latest data from the ministry of health and family welfare showed. The death count in India has also nearly doubled in the last 16 days to 4,337.

The continuing rise in cases poses a severe challenge for India’s strained medical capacity and overburdened health system, leading to questions about the effectiveness of the over two months’ lockdown as it has not managed to flatten the curve despite slowing the rise in cases.

Among the relaxations that may be added in ‘lockdown 5.0’ is the reopening of places of worship, as well as gymnasiums. Government officials said that temples and other places of worship can be allowed to open provided social distancing is maintained and worshipers wear a mask. However, no religious congregation or festival will be allowed.

The Karnataka government has already said that it favours reopening of temples and churches from June 1.

The next phase of the lockdown is likely to continue restrictions on malls, cinema halls, schools, colleges, other educational institutions and other places that can have large gatherings, officials said.

Some states have started exploring the option of opening schools in June, but the central government, they said, is not in favour of it yet.