Odisha Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy said the state is aiming to set more COVID hospitals to reach bed capacity of 6,000, from over 1,500 available at present.
By SAMPAD PATNAIK
Even as the Centre and states are still weighing their options on extending the 21-day lockdown beyond April 14, Odisha became the first state to clearly spell its plan of action: That its lockdown will continue till April 30. The state government also said it would request the Centre to stop rail and air services to the state until then.
“The state Cabinet, which met today, decided that saving lives of our people is the top most priority at this juncture,” said chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s written statement shared by the state government on Thursday. “We have decided to extend the lockdown till April 30. We will recommend to the Government of India to extend the national lockdown (up to the same time period)… We will also request the Union Government not to start airline and railway services till April 30,” the statement added.
In a signal that the lockdown norms could be less stringent in rural areas, Patnaik said that “activities related to agriculture, animal husbandry, and MGNREGS will be facilitated during the lockdown period following social distance norms”.
The state government’s decision is significant also because Odisha is a state with low virus case load. By Thursday evening, the state had reported 44 positive cases, with one death and two recoveries, after testing 2,841 samples. Odisha Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy said the state is aiming to set more COVID hospitals to reach bed capacity of 6,000, from over 1,500 available at present.
On March 21, three days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the 21-day nationwide lockdown, CM Patnaik had announced a week-long “near total lockdown” of five districts and eight towns to prevent the spread of COVID-19, thereby locking down 40 per cent of the state, and focusing on pockets where more than 70 per cent of foreign travellers had returned.
Other states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu also appeared to be in favour of an extension of the lockdown.
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Thursday said all his cabinet colleagues are of the unanimous opinion to extend the lockdown for about 15 days after April 14, and a final decision in this regard will be taken after consulting the Prime Minister.
Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting here, he said, “To check COVID-19, all my cabinet colleagues have unanimously opined that the lockdown should be extended for about 15 days, after April 14.”
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s video-conference with chief ministers last week, at least seven states, including Maharashtra with the maximum number of cases so far, have indicated that they would continue to have some restrictions in place after the three-week period.
In Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami on Thursday asserted that a decision on extending the lockdown will be taken after getting expert advice and taking into account the increase in the number of coronavirus positive cases.
“A decision will be taken considering the status of the disease…it is contagious and the number of cases are on the rise and as of now 738 people are infected and these aspects will be factored in,” he said answering a question.
The Chief Minister’s pointer towards the steady rise in the number of cases is seen as a hint that the government might considering prolonging lockdown.
With PTI inputs