Amid increasing Covid-19 cases in several parts of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met senior ministers and officials to review the situation and instructed them to undertake “emergency planning” in the worst-affected states and urban centres, particularly in the national capital.
The review came a day after the Supreme Court rapped the Delhi government over the “horrendous, horrific and pathetic” situation in the national capital. The prime minister is also scheduled to hold a virtual meeting with chief ministers on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Saturday’s meeting reviewed the national-level status and preparation with regard to the pandemic. It also took stock of the situation in different states and Union Territories (UTs), including Delhi, a government statement said.
At the meeting, Dr Vinod Paul, member of the NITI Aayog and convener of the Empowered Group of Medical Emergency Management Plan, pointed out two-thirds of the Covid cases were in five states, with an overwhelming number in big cities.
“In view of the challenges being faced, particularly by large cities, it was discussed to augment testing as well as the number of beds and services to effectively handle the peak surge of daily cases,” the statement said.
The PM took cognisance of the recommendations of the empowered group on city and district-wise requirements of hospital and isolation beds, and instructed health ministry officials to undertake emergency planning in consultation with states and UTs. He also advised the ministry to ensure preparations in view of the start of the monsoon season.
The present and emerging scenario of Covid-19 in the capital was discussed and the projections for the next two months were deliberated, the statement said.
The PM asked Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to convene an emergency meeting with Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and senior officials to “plan a coordinated and comprehensive response to handle the challenge posed by rising cases of Covid-19”.
Earlier in the day, Shah’s office announced that he would hold a meeting with Delhi’s L-G, CM, and other officials on Sunday afternoon.
On Saturday, the Delhi High Court directed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the Centre to increase the number of beds and ventilators for Covid patients.
As traders in the national capital threatened to shut down markets and shopping complexes, Shah’s office tweeted he would meet Baijal, Kejriwal, and State Disaster Management Authority officials. Dr Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), will also be present at the meeting.
The meeting comes as social media and messaging services are abuzz with unverified information about a looming second lockdown.
In the last couple of days, Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray have had to clarify that their governments did not plan to impose another lockdown, particularly in the worst-affected areas such as Chennai, Mumbai, and Pune.
However, Punjab on Saturday enforced a renewed lockdown on weekends and holidays to check the spread of coronavirus. It has ordered all non-essential shops to remain shut on Sundays, and close by 5 pm on Saturdays. On weekdays, shops will shut by 7 pm. Liquor shops have been exempted from this and will remain open on all days until 8 pm, as will restaurants but only for home delivery. Inter-district movement of people is also restricted on weekends, except for essential services.
In Madhya Pradesh, the state government has ordered complete shutdown in Bhopal on weekends because of a spike in cases. The Sikkim government on Saturday announced that educational institutions in the state would remain shut until the first week of August.