Phased exit from lockdown: Areas with low infection risk may be opened up first

New Delhi: The government could consider a phased exit from the national lockdown and is studying a proposal to partially lift restrictions in low-risk states and districts while continuing with stringent curbs in areas with the maximum number of cases.

The high-risk states and districts could see the lockdown continue for 28 days more, according to the draft plan submitted by the Medical Emergency Management Plan, a Niti Aayog group. The group, constituted by the home ministry, is headed by Niti Aayog member Vinod Paul. ET has reviewed a copy of its proposal.

It proposes dividing states into four categories based on the severity of outbreak, with the worst-hit ones placed in stage 4. The categorisation is based on parameters such as the number of active cases in previous seven days, the spread of active cases and the density of cases.

‘No Final Decision Yet’

A state reporting more than or equal to 50 active cases will be put in stage 4; a state with less than five active cases or with no new case in seven days will be placed in stage 1, says the document.


Paul told ET the government is looking at various studies and recommendations, but has not taken any decision yet on the post-April 14 scenario. “We are looking at various options, and a rational decision about the continuation of the lockdown or non-continuation will be dependent on various factors,” he said.

On Monday, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant held a meeting with officials from the Cabinet Secretariat, ministry of health, department of biotechnology, ministry of environment, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The group is also studying the progress made by the containment plans. One of the key points under discussion is the period of lockdown. “It is a dynamic situation, and a decision will be taken in the best interests of the people. The government is studying the benefits of the lockdown on the outbreak, and whether it has achieved the intended objectives. The issues related to the economy, human issues and the imperatives for (allowing) basic activities are being weighed. As of today, these studies are hypothetical. Work is in progress, and nothing has been decided yet on the post-April 14 period,” added Paul.

The group has been studying what might happen if the novel coronavirus gains a foothold in the country. Based on this, projections will be made on whether to extend or lift the lockdown in some areas. “We are looking at the best-case scenario, the worst-case scenario and the medium-term scenario, based on which projections will be made. The experts are doing mathematical modelling. The final call will be taken based on those projections,” sources told ET.

The proposal says elderly people should be confined to homes and inter-state travel should be restricted. It suggests that the districts with maximum positive cases should be isolated completely. While it suggests that factories can be opened in unaffected areas, the proposal comes with a caveat: “No interstate movement of labour should be allowed to facilitate the functioning of these establishments.” The movement of people will be strictly controlled in the worst-hit states and districts, while people in the stage 0 and stage 1 areas will have more freedom of movement.

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