New Delhi | Neelu Ranjan: The three-week pan-India lockdown, imposed in a bid to curb the transmission of the novel coronavirus, is entering its final phase with just one week left. However, the sharp spike in number of fresh COVID-19 cases across the country has raised questions on whether the government will lift the lockdown or look for a staggered exit.

Several state governments have requested the Centre to extend the lockdown in wake of the spike in cases as India has so far reported 5,194 cases with the death tolk mounting to 149. News agency ANI quoted government sources saying that it considering the requests made by states. 

A decision on the extension of lockdown is expected by this weekend after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with chief ministers via video conferencing this Satuday. 

Indicating a phased lifting of the lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked Union ministers to prepare a “graded plan” to slowly open departments in non-hotspots of the COVID-19, and work on a war footing to mitigate the adverse impact of the pandemic on country's economy.

PM Modi clearly indicated that the lifting of the lockdown in one go is very unlikely while discussing the modalities of lifting it. He also asked the ministers whether the restrictions should be lifted sector-wise or district-wise 

According to Dainik Jagran, the Centre is mulling a mega plan after April 14 under which all states will be divided into four categories and lifting of lockdown and resumption of services will be planned accordingly.

Sources said that a complete lockdown will be extended in areas which have turned into coronavirus hotspots. Meanwhile, relief is expected in areas where no fresh cases have been reported in the last seven days. However, new set of restrictions may be put in place if new cases come up in those areas.

While this is clear that the lockdown will not be lifted in one go, the draft exit plan suggests that the categorisation of states will be done based on the number of people infected from the deadly virus.

Here is how the states and Union Territories may be categorised for a phased lifting of the lockdown:

Category 4: States where more than 50 cases of COVID-19 have been reported will be put under this category. Such states will remain under complete lockdown and all services will remain suspended, other than the essential ones. States and UTs will be put in the category if they have two or more cases per 10 lakh population or if more than 40 per cent of the districts are affected from the virus.

Category 3: States with more than 20 cases, 30 per cent affected districts and 1-2 cases per 10 lakh population will be put in the third category. In these states, lockdown will continue, but some restrictions might be eased along with essential services.

Category 2: This category will include those states which have reported less than 20 cases of coronavirus and less than 30 per cent of the districts are effected from the deadly virus. Also, these states must have one or less than one cases per 10 lakh population.

Category 1: This category will include those states which have reported less than five cases so far and no fresh cases have been reported in the last seven days.

What restrictions may be eased

Under the mega plan, railway, bus and air transport services may be eased for states falling in Category 3 but this relief may be limited within the states as inter-state travel will remain suspended. The coronavirus-hit states will remain isolated and entry and exit into such states will not be allowed.

While travel restrictions may be eased for states under Category 3, economic activities, educational and other services will remain suspended.

For states under Category 2, educational and economic services may resume after a go ahead from the authorities. Road, rail and air transport services will resume in these states but travelling to Category 3 and Category 4 states will not be allowed.

As per the proposed mega plan, no restrictions will be imposed on states which fall under Category 1.  

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta