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COVID-19 lockdown: Centre considering extending nationwide lockdown beyond April 14 after requests by CMs

New Delhi: The nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 is likely to be extended beyond April 14 with the government spokesperson on Saturday saying the Centre is considering a request made by most state chief ministers in this regard during an interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"During the video-conferencing on coronavirus in India with state CMs today, most states requested Prime Minister Modi to extend the lockdown for two more weeks. The Central Government is considering this request," government's Principal Spokesperson K S Dhatwalia tweeted.

More direct and clear indication of a possible extension came from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who tweeted the "PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown. Today, India's position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is important to extend it."

The meeting, held via video conferencing, was called by Modi to discuss the situation arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to take the feedback of chief ministers on whether the 21-day shutdown should be extended.

Among others, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh as well as Kejriwal had suggested extension of the national lockdown by at least a fortnight.

Modi, accompanied by some senior officials, including from the Union health ministry, was wearing a white mask during the meeting which was also attended by chief ministers --Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Uddhav Thackeray (Maharashtra), Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh), Manohar Lal (Haryana), K Chandrashekhar Rao (Telangana) and Nitish kumar (Bihar).

The Central government is understood to have also obtained views on the issue from all the relevant agencies and stakeholders involved in the efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic.

The video conference, which began at 11am, came even as Punjab and Odisha governments earlier this week announced extension of the lockdown beyond April 14 when the current spell of 21-day shutdown ends on Tuesday.

The Union Home Ministry has sought views of state governments on various aspects, including whether more categories of people and services need to be exempted. Only essential services are exempted during the ongoing lockdown.

This is for the second time the prime minister is interacting with the chief ministers via video link after the lockdown was imposed.

During his April 2 interaction with chief ministers, Modi had pitched for a "staggered" exit from the ongoing lockdown.

Addressing floor leaders of various parties who have representation in Parliament, Modi had on Wednesday made it clear that the lockdown cannot be lifted in one go, asserting that the priority of his government is to "save each and every life".

According to an official statement after the Wednesday interaction, the prime minister told these leaders that states, district administrations and experts have suggested extension of the lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.

Before the lockdown was announced on March 24, the prime minister had interacted with the chief ministers on March 20 to discuss ways and means to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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