India extends Coronavirus lockdown until May 3

In a live televised address early on Tuesday morning, India's prime minister extended the nationwide lockdown until May 3 to contain novel coronavirus pandemic.

India extends Coronavirus lockdown until May 3

In a live televised address early on Tuesday morning, India's prime minister extended the nationwide lockdown until May 3 to contain novel coronavirus pandemic.

Narendra Modi assured that while strict measures would be in place in the lockdown's first phase lasting until April 20, certain services could later be relaxed in areas that are not virus hotspots.

"We have taken strict measures since the start. We had started our screening process, even before the first case was reported and had announced a 21-day countrywide lockdown before the country touched a 500 cases mark. The nation did not wait for the problem to grow big before taking measures," said Modi.

He also emphasized that this time, the interests of migrant workers and the poor would be kept in mind. He said the government was assisting in seasonal crop harvests which were delayed due to lockdown.

Despite the lockdown, India is seeing a surge in cases. The country crossed the 10,000 mark on Monday. According to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, India has so far reported 10,453 COVID-19 cases and 358 deaths. 

Praising India's "holistic approach and quick decisions," Modi said that though the country "may have paid a big economic price, but there can be no alternative to saving human lives."

Global experience shows that 1,500-1,600 beds were required when the cases in a country reach 10,000, he said, adding that there were currently more than 1 million beds across over 600 hospitals in the country of around 1.3 billion population to treat COVID-19 patients.

"We are expanding these facilities," added Modi, stressing that the country had adequate stocks of essential goods and medicine.

While Modi's statements received mixed reactions from several groups in the country, the main opposition party accused him of ambiguity on an awaited financial package to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic.

Modi said a detailed financial package would be revealed on Wednesday.

Indian National Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said on Twitter that the speech had "inspiration," but did not mention the financial package and had "no details, no concrete item."

"Lockdown is good but cannot end in itself! Where is the single livelihood issue?" he asserted.

Separately, Praveen Khandelwal, the secretary-general of the Confederation of All India Traders, said following Modi's remarks that amid the 21-day lockdown, the retail trade in the country had suffered losses of roughly $413 billion.

"There are about 70 million traders in the country, out of which about 1.5 million traders deal in essential commodities, but only 4 million of them have been able to continue the supply chain of essential commodities across the country," he said, citing "several difficulties" in obtaining passes from authorities and the non-availability of transportation.

To continue the "effective supply of essential goods," it will be necessary that traders of these products receive curfew passes and adequate transport, said Khandelwal.

Over 1.92 million COVID-19 cases have now been reported in 185 countries and regions since last December, with Europe and the U.S. being the worst-hit, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

So far, nearly 120,000 people have died and over 458,000 recovered around the world.