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No decision on extending lockdown as yet, please don’t speculate: Govt

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal on Tuesday said no decision on extending lockdown has been taken yet, adding that media should not speculate. "Honourable Supreme Court had earlier ordered media not to publish any information unless verified...Whatever decision will be taken based on available facts...we'll bring it to your notice," he further told media.

Amid reports of the Centre mulling an extension of the nationwide lockdown beyond April 14 on request of states, the government has now said that no such decision has been taken yet.

Speaking at the government’s daily presser, Joint Health Secretary Lav Aggarwal said, “No decision on extending lockdown as yet, please don’t speculate.”

Aggarwal also dismissed several social media/print media reports that had suggested the lockdown will continue in a phased manner.

When asked about how the government will ensure Covid-19 clusters don’t spread after the lockdown is over, Lav Aggarwal said, “Government has been adopting a strategy for cluster containment & for outbreaks that are amenable to management.”

“This strategy is producing positive results, especially in Agra, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Pathanamthitta, Bhilwara and East Delhi,” he added.

The statement comes hours after government sources indicated that the Union government was mulling over the extension of the lockdown after requests were made by several states and centre.

A lot of state governments, as well as experts, are requesting the Central government to extend the nationwide coronavirus lockdown beyond April 14, and the Centre is thinking in this direction, government sources said on Tuesday.

However, sources did not indicate if a final decision has been taken on the matter.

India is currently under the 21-day lockdown since March 25, with only essential services exempted, to contain the fast-spreading virus, which has claimed more than 75,800 lives and afflicted over 13.5 lakh people across 183 countries.

“A lot of state governments, as well as experts, are requesting Central Government to extend the lockdown. The Central government is thinking in this direction,” a source said.

The development comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked countrymen to be ready for a long battle against the coronavirus pandemic, and exhorted people to not feel tired or defeated while and expressing confidence the country will emerge victorious in its fight.

Several chief ministers have favoured the extension of the lockdown in the country to contain the fast-spreading virus, as the number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 4,421 and death toll touched 117.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his government will extend lockdown if the need arises, while his counterpart in Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot said the state cannot withdraw the lockdown immediately, and it has to be done in a phased manner.

In a statement to mark two weeks of lockdown, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said the next one week of the lockdown is “critical” for evolving an exit strategy as the data regarding the spread of coronavirus will have a bearing on the decision to be taken by the government.

He also appealed to the public to abide with whatever decision is ultimately taken by the government and cooperate with the same spirit that has been evident so far, “even if it meant to continue with some degree of hardship beyond April 14”.

On Monday, Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao had said he will appeal to Prime Minister Modi to extend the lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Also Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary R K Tiwari said,”there is still time for the lockdown and we will review the situation and then decide” on lifting it.

Since there is no vaccine to fight COVID-19, the government has stressed that social distancing is the only way to check the spread of the virus. Lockdown is considered the best way to keep people indoors.

Inter-state travel by public transport, including trains and buses, is banned, and so is domestic and international air travel.

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