As India enters the final week of the lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday conveyed to chief ministers that the country will have to give importance to the economy as well as continue the fight against the novel coronavirus.
In a video conference with the chief ministers, fourth such interaction since March 22 when he first spoke to them on the pandemic, Modi also highlighted the importance for states to enforce prescribed guidelines strictly in the coronavirus hotspots, the government said in a statement.
The prime minister underlined that the nationwide lockdown has "yielded positive results as the country has managed to save thousands of lives in the past one and a half months", it said.
"Prime Minister said that the country has seen two Lockdowns till now, both different in certain aspects, and now we have to think of the way ahead. He said that as per experts, the impact of coronavirus will remain visible in the coming months," the statement added.
Modi also said that masks and face covers will become part of lives of people in the days ahead, adding everyone's aim must be to ensure rapid response under the current circumstances.
He emphasised on the importance of the use of technology as much as possible, and also to utilise time to embrace reform measures.
The prime minister said at the virtual meeting that India's population is comparable to that of the combined population of several countries.
"The situation in many countries, including India, was almost similar at the start of March. However, due to timely measures, India has been able to protect many people," the statement said quoting the prime minister.
He, however, forewarned that the danger of the virus is far from over and constant vigilance is of paramount importance, it said.
He also urged the chief ministers to factor in the changes in weather - advent of summer and monsoon - and the illnesses that can potentially come in this season, while strategising ahead.
Citing experts, the prime minister said the impact of coronavirus will remain visible in the coming months. Reiterating the mantra of 'do gaz doori' (maintaining distance of two yards) he said that masks and face covers will become part of our lives in the days ahead.
"The prime minister underlined that the lockdown has yielded positive results as the country has managed to save thousands of lives in the past one-and-a-half months," the statement said.
The lockdown was first announced by Modi on March 24 in a bid to combat the coronavirus endemic. It was further extended till May 3.
He highlighted the importance for states to enforce guidelines strictly in the hotspots or the red zone areas.
He said that the efforts of the states should be directed towards converting the red zones into orange and thereafter to green zones.
On the issue of getting back Indians from foreign countries, he said that this has to be done keeping in mind the fact that they don't get inconvenienced and their families are not under any risk, the statement said.
The chief ministers praised the leadership of the prime minister during this period of crisis, and also highlighted the efforts undertaken by them in containing the virus, according to the statement.
"They spoke about the need to keep a close vigil on international borders, and also on addressing the economic challenge and ways to further boost health infrastructure," it said without elaborating.
The leaders also expressed gratitude towards the police force and medical staff for the exemplary work done by them in the fight against COVID-19.
Among those present at the virtual meet, included Home Minister Amit Shah, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and top officials from the PMO and the Union Health Ministry.
The chief ministers who attended the meeting included Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Uddhav Thackeray (Maharashtra), E K Palaniswami (Tamil Nadu), Conrad Sangma (Meghalaya) Trivendra Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand) and Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh).
According to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's office, he did not participate in the video conference as only nine chief ministers had the opportunity to interact.
The state was represented by Chief Secretary Tom Jose and Additional Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta at the video conference.
Shah had spoken to the chief minister on Sunday and had asked Kerala to give suggestions, which were sent.
Modi said under the circumstances, everyone's aim must be rapid response.
He pointed out that many people are self-declaring whether they have cough and cold or symptoms, which was a welcome sign.
He also emphasised on the need for more people to download the Aarogya Setu mobile app to bolster the efforts to fight COVID-19.
The prime minister said "we have to be brave and bring in reforms that touch the lives of common citizens."
He also suggested that people associated with universities can be integrated on devising ways to fight the pandemic and strengthen research as well as innovation.
At the interaction, Shah reaffirmed the need to enforce lockdown so that maximum lives are saved, the statement said.