New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: India has been witnessing an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases since mid-March, leading to the collapse of healthcare facilities in several cities, states and union territories (UTs). On Tuesday, the country reported 3.57 lakh cases that pushed the total caseload above the grim mark of 2 crore. Similarly, the toll reached 2.22 lakh-mark after India reported 3,449 new deaths.

Despite a rise in cases, the central government has refused to impose a nationwide lockdown with Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking the states and UTs to only consider it "as the last option".

"We are facing the second wave of COVID-19 now. I understand the pain you are going through and express my sympathies to the families who have lost their loved ones due to COVID. The challenge before is big but we have to overcome it with our resolve, courage and preparation," PM Modi had said in an address two weeks ago.

However, the calls to impose a nationwide lockdown have increased in India with medical experts and politicians questioning the Centre's strategy to deal with the second wave of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi made a staunching attack at the Centre, calling for a complete lockdown in the country. Gandhi, in a Tweet, claimed that a full lockdown with the protection of minimum income guarantee scheme is the only way to stop the spread of coronavirus in India now.

Not just Gandhi, the Supreme Court last week also asked the Centre and state governments to impose lockdowns in the "interest of public welfare" and ban mass gatherings to control the COVID surge.

"Having said that, we are cognizant of the socio-economic impact of a lockdown, specifically on the marginalised communities. Thus, in case the measure of a lockdown is imposed, arrangements must be made beforehand to cater to the needs of these communities," the court said, as reported by LiveLaw.

Anthony Fauci, United States' top infection disease expert, has also recommended a lockdown in India "for a few weeks" to overcome this "very difficult and desperate" situation.

"I think the most important thing in the immediate is to get oxygen, get supplies, get medication, get PPE, those kinds of things but also, one of the immediate things to do is to essentially call a shutdown of the country," he told The Indian Express in an interview.

What does the Centre have to say?

The Centre, however, has completely refuted reports of imposing a complete lockdown in the country. However, according to a Times of India report, it has asked states and UTs to focus on "customised lockdowns" in districts where the positivity rate is above 15 per cent to control the surge.

On Tuesday, it also said that 13 states, including Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, are showing early signs of plateauing or decrease in daily new COVID-19 cases. However, it also cautioned that states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal are still showing an increase in daily infections.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma