FM Sitharaman rules out nationwide lockdown amid the second wave
Various states have imposed partial lockdowns, stringent restrictions to curtail COVID-19 spread
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has ruled out the possibility of a nationwide lockdown amid surging COVID-19 infections in India. The development has come as the Finance Minister on Monday interacted with the country’s industry leaders and took their inputs on business and association-related concerns.
As per a statement issued by the Federation of Indian Micro and Small & Medium Enterprises (FISME), the Finance Minister spoke to the industry body’s president Animesh Saxena and conveyed the Centre’s preparedness in handling the second COVID-19 wave. During their interaction, FM Nirmala Sitharaman reportedly said that the government’s immediate priority is to strengthen the health infrastructure of the country and maintaining the growth momentum of the economy. The FISME President also underlined Sitharaman’s assurance that there is no plan of national lockdown as the Centre would be focusing on creating small containment zones to control virus transmission.
“Sitharaman said that PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are in constant touch with all States to monitor the situation and providing all assistance regarding the availability of oxygen, essential medicines and medical facilities,” Animesh Saxena added.
Taking to Twitter, Nirmala Sitharaman posted that she spoke with a number of business/Chamber leaders over the phone and informed them about the government’s proactive response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Earlier, speaking to India TV news, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan had stated that there is no need for another national lockdown if people strictly follow COVID-19 protocols to fight the second wave.
“The need for a complete shutdown was last year as there was no preparation. But now we have all systems in place, we all learned how to fight the pandemic,” the Union Minister said, during the interview.
Meanwhile, a number of state governments have imposed partial lockdown and restrictions to contain the unprecedented rise in infections. On Monday, the Rajasthan government imposed a 15-day lockdown starting until May 3. The Delhi government also imposed a 6-day stringent curfew until April 26 after the city’s health system reached a breaking point.
“If we don’t enforce a lockdown now, Delhi could be staring at a “bigger disaster,” CM Arvind Kejriwal said in a televised address.
Other states including Maharashtra and West Bengal are also considering partial lockdown to tackle the steep rise in cases.
A recent report by American brokerage firm Bofa Securities has warned that a month’s national lockdown can hurt India’s GDP growth by 2 percentage points.
“A month of nationwide lockdown costs 1-2 percent of GDP. Given the high economic cost, we expect the Centre and state governments to try to contain the spread with the tightening of COVID-19 regulations, night curfews, and localised lockdowns,” the report said.
In March 2020, the Modi government imposed a nationwide 21-day lockdown with the aim of curbing the spread of the virus. The lockdown was further extended by the authorities across all districts and villages in response to rising COVID-19 positive cases in the country.