Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday urged citizens of India to cooperate with the government on any decision it makes on the countrywide lockdown to contain the coronavirus, and asked them to abide by it “even if the hardship continues beyond April 14”, NDTV reported. His statement came after at least three states – Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra – hinted that the 21-day lockdown may have to be extended beyond April 15.

“Let’s live with the hardship a little longer for a better tomorrow,” Naidu said in a statement. He said the upcoming week would be critical in deciding on an exit from the lockdown. “ The data on the extent and rate of spread of the Covid-19 infection would have a bearing on exit strategy.”

The vice president said people should abide by whatever decision follows and cooperate “with the same spirit that has so far been demonstrated even if hardship were to continue after April 14”. His statement comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a cabinet meeting via video conference, where he asked ministers to chart a “graded plan” for after the lockdown ended. “Identify ten key decisions and ten priority areas to focus on for each ministry once the lockdown ends,” Modi said.

Addressing concerns about the economic downturn of the pandemic, Naidu said: “Between the considerations of the health of the people and stabilisation of our economy being debated, the former shall take precedence over the later. The concerns of economy can wait for another day, that of health cannot.”

Naidu called the religious event held at Nizamuddin in Delhi last month – which later emerged as an infection hotspot – an “avoidable aberration and an eye opener to all others”. “The extent of participation in this congregation and its multiplier effect has upset our expectations,” he said. “This avoidable episode highlighted the consequences of any slip by way of violating the rules of social and physical distancing to contain the spread of virus.”

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao on Monday said he will urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to extend the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 cases in the country. Meanwhile, Maharashtra’s Health Minister Rajesh Tope said people must not remain under the impression that the lockdown will be lifted at the end of the 21-day period, which started on March 25. “The situation between April 10 and 15 will be closely analysed before taking a decision on the lockdown,” he said.

In Uttar Pradesh, additional chief secretary Awanish Awasthi said that the lockdown must not be lifted on April 15 since the number of coronavirus cases in the country were on the rise, PTI reported. “Since the number of coronavirus cases has gone up markedly in the past couple of days, it would not be right to say that the lockdown will be lifted after April 14,” he said.

The number of novel coronavirus cases in the country rose to 4,421 on Tuesday morning, and the toll increased to 114, according to health ministry figures.

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