Union cabinet ministers on Monday returned to work hinting at the announcement of possible relaxation in the coronavirus lockdown when Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on Tuesday. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took to Twitter to announce her return to the North Block office. She posted a picture of herself donning a homemade mask. All the Union Ministers had been asked to return to work from Monday, April 13 by the prime minister and focus on kick-starting the economy post lockdown.
As the number of coronavirus positive cases in India crossed 9,000-mark, the Centre has decided to extend the 21-day lockdown for two more weeks. Several states, including Punjab, Rajasthan, and Odisha have already extended the lockdown till April 30. After a meeting with the chief ministers, the prime minister had also said that it was not possible to lift the lockdown in the present circumstances.
While the extension of lockdown is almost certain, the government will now shift its focus on the hotspots of the coronavirus and resume manufacturing units in the least affected areas to restart the economy. For this, all the ministers, officers of the joint secretary level and above along with the essential staff have been asked to return to work from April 13.
Red, orange and green zones
According to sources, the government is likely to announce relaxation in curbs for farmers and industrial sectors. The MHA has received suggestions to divide the country into three zones - red, orange and green - based on the situation in these areas. Industrial activities will be allowed in orange and green areas while maintaining the practice of social distancing, the sources said.
As many as 400 districts in the country are largely unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic and they are likely to be announced as green zones. Industries, construction work and agriculture activities may be allowed in these areas. Also, there are some reports claiming that rail and air services can also be resumed on select routes.
The highly contagious coronavirus pandemic has killed over 1.14 lakh people and infected more than 1.8 million across the world. In India, the coronavirus has killed over 300 people and infected more than 9,000 infections.