National lockdown just 'pause button' against coronavirus: Rahul Gandhi

Police officials stand in a queue to get sanitised after dispersing hundreds of stranded migrant workers from outside the Bandra Railway Station in Mumbai. Photo: PTI
A national lockdown is only a "pause button" against the coronavirus pandemic and the government must aggressively test people to contain the disease, said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday.

"Lockdown has not solved the problem but has postponed the situation instead. Therefore to continue the fight, give GST to States, discuss with the States. This direction is still needed. The speed with which the money should reach the States is not happening. The fight against Coronavirus is on two fronts - medical and economic."

He further asked that states be given more power in the battle against the deadly illness, adding that a "blunt instrument" should not be used and what is needed is a "nuanced" and strategic approach.

Addressing a press conference via video conference, Gandhi also said the entire country has to fight the crisis "unitedly" and there is a need to grant adequate resources to the states to help them deal with it in a "nuanced" manner.  He strongly pitched for aggressively expanding coronavirus testing across the country and adopting it as a "strategic" instrument to "defeat" the pandemic.

Instead of conducting tests on the basis of suspected cases, India must adopt a strategy and bring out an architecture under which testing should be expanded exponentially and find out where the country stands, the Congress leader said.

He said the lockdown is not a solution to the pandemic and the time must be utilised to significantly bolster the existing medical infrastructure as well as take steps to deal with the worrying economic fallout.

LIVE: Special Congress Party Briefing by Shri @RahulGandhi via video conferencing.#RahulSpeaksForIndia

— Congress (@INCIndia) April 16, 2020
"The lockdown is in no way a solution to COVID-19. It is like a pause button. We need to ramp up our medical infrastructure, testing facilities...We need to develop an architecture to deal with the crisis," he said. 

"The Covid19 crisis & shutting of businesses in the Middle East have left thousands of Indian workers in deep distress & desperate to return home. The Govt must organise flights to bring home our brothers & sisters most in need of assistance, with quarantine plans in place," Rahul had said earlier. 

The statement comes days after interim party president Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with suggestions to control the outbreak. In her letter, Gandhi suggested measures to save money, including suspending a project to redo Delhi's central vista and banning media advertisements by the government for two years.

She also called for putting on hold foreign visits by the President, Vice president, and Union ministers as well as chief ministers of states and bureaucrats, and slashing the government's expenditure budget, other than salaries, pensions, and central sector schemes, by 30 per cent.

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