PM Modi to address nation at 8pm, govt hints at easing lockdown

File photo of PM Narendra Modi addressing the media | Photo: @ANI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation at 8pm, a day after he told chief ministers a lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak must be gradually lifted to allow economic activities.

“We have a twofold challenge--to reduce the transmission rate of the disease, and to increase public activity gradually,” Modi said in a video call. ““Slowly but surely, economic activities have begun to pick up in several parts of the country. In coming days, this process will gather steam. We must realise that the fight against Covid-19 has to be more focused now,” Modi said.

An indication of the lockdown would gradually be eased came when the Indian Railways opened bookings for passenger services with 15 trains a day from Tuesday connecting Delhi to Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and other big cities.

Rail, road and air services were suspended in the country in March to stop infections into the country’s interior, but the case numbers have risen daily. Health ministry officials have repeatedly said the spread of the disease would be worse without the stringent lockdown.

India had 70,756 coronavirus cases and 2,293 deaths from the disease till Tuesday noon, according to the health ministry. The rising infection numbers are also the result of testing, which has grown from 2,000 per day in late March, to 85,000 to 90,000 a day, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research, the government’s top body leading the fight against the disease.

Political parties, businesses and citizens say the lockdown has destroyed the livelihoods of millions that rely on daily wages for sustenance. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday said the economic situation was “very bad” and the government would announce a financial package in a couple of days.

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