Not ruling out nationwide lockdown: Head of COVID-19 taskforce

By Express News Service
NEW DELHI: The Centre on Wednesday did not rule out a national lockdown to control the fierce second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, amid a growing clamour for tough restrictions to curb the chain of transmission.

V K Paul, member (health) of Niti Aayog, who also heads the national Covid-19 taskforce, said in response to a question in a press briefing by the Union health ministry that this option (of a nationwide lockdown), is “being discussed”.

Paul, while listing out the guidelines shared by the Union government last week, said that the states have already been instructed to impose local night curfews and restrictions in districts with over 10% test positivity rate and more than 60% occupancy of ICU beds.

“..in that direction there is a clear balanced advisory…at the same time in addition to this range of restrictions if anything more is required, those options are always being discussed and those decisions, as being required, will be taken,” said Paul.

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He, however, reiterated that at the same time, it should be remembered that very significant guidelines have already been issued to the states.

Paul’s response comes at a time when a number of experts, specialists from developed countries and opposition leaders have said that a nationwide lockdown may be the only option left for India in the wake of a tsunami of infections that has led to an unprecedented burden on healthcare infrastructure and resources such as supplemental oxygen. 

Several members of India’s Covid-19 taskforce too have been learnt to have recommended a strict national lockdown, in parallel to an aggressive vaccination campaign to tame the second wave. 

In a meeting with Chief Ministers several days back, PM Narendra Modi however had clearly said that a national lockdown could only be a last resort, mainly due to its huge impact on the economy and the hardships it brings to a large section of the society.

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In India, several states have imposed state-wise or district-wise lockdowns or restrictions depending on the Covid-19 status in local areas.