As we enter the final week of the 40-day lockdown, the focus is on the type of exit strategy the country would choose. Although restrictions on economic activity are expected to continue beyond May 3, there is no evidence that workload in India is improving significantly. These are the main issues under discussion during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s video call with the chief ministers today. Many senior ministers who attended the meeting reportedly had requested an extension of the blockade.
For this video call with the PM, only nine Chief Ministers could get to speak, apparently because of time constraints. The rest were just told to “sit in”. The nine States whose CMs were allowed to speak were Mizoram, Meghalaya, Puducherry, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana.
That CMs of States that have been badly affected by COVID-19, such as Maharashtra and West Bengal, were not given a chance to speak. The Chief Ministers of Odisha and Meghalaya, among others, asked for an extension of the lockdown, with some relaxations for economic activities. Odisha asked for an extension till June 3. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, meanwhile, asked for a clear countrywide policy on bringing back migrant workers. Several states have now begun to take their own steps to facilitate this.
The total number of positive coronavirus cases reported from India stands at 29,050, with the death toll at 925. In a major development today, the ICMR has advised states to stop using rapid antibody test kits procured from two Chinese companies, Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics, after it found wide variation in their sensitivity, despite early promise of good performance for surveillance purposes.
Several States have procured rapid antibody test kits, and on their demand, ICMR has also provided these kits with clear instructions that they are to be used only for surveillance purpose. Later, some States raised issues regarding their performance during the testing exercise that they have undertaken.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday hit out at companies selling Covid-19 testing kits imported from China, for reportedly trying to profit from India’s fight against COVID-19. Gandhi’s reaction came after reports that the companies were selling kits to the ICMR at inflated prices.
Dewan Housing Finance Limited (DHFL) promoters Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhawan were produced before a special CBI court on Monday noon and were remanded to the custody of the central agency till April 29. The CBI had arrested the Wadhawans on April 26 for their alleged involvement in the Yes Bank scam.