Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday said that the 21-day nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus pandemic cannot be lifted immediately and that the rollback of restrictions must take place in a phased manner, PTI reported. At least three states, including Telangana, had hinted on Monday that the lockdown may be extended.

“We cannot withdraw lockdown immediately,” Gehlot said during a video conference. “It has to be done in a phased manner, that is what I feel.” He added that the decision on withdrawing the lockdown in Rajasthan will be taken after considering the recommendations of a task force. So far, the state has 288 cases of the coronavirus and three patients have died.

Gehlot also said that his government has ordered 10 lakh testing kits from China and will soon begin rapid testing for Covid-19. He said that Rajasthan is among those states which took the coronavirus threat seriously and had equipped itself well to deal with the crisis.

The Rajasthan chief minister also demanded a probe by a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court into the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin, which has emerged as the largest coronavirus hotspot in India.

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State governments on extension of lockdown

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan hinted that the lockdown in the state may be extended. “We will take a decision after seeing the circumstances,” he said. “The lives of people are more important. We can tolerate lockdown.”

In Haryana, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar called for the lockdown to be lifted in phases after April 14. “We will follow the Centre’s directives regarding the lockdown,” he told ANI. “As the disease is increasing day by day, we can’t say anything now on ending or continuing lockdown.”

Karnataka Medical Education Minister Sudhakar K on Tuesday said the state would need a few more days to decide whether to extend the lockdown. He also said he would urge the Centre to keep “red alerts and zones” in lockdown for at least two weeks.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had on Monday cautioned that people could die in large numbers if the lockdown was lifted. Maharashtra’s Health Minister Rajesh Tope had 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. A senior Uttar Pradesh government official said that the lockdown must not be lifted on April 15 since the number of coronavirus cases in the country were on the rise.

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

Centre’s response

The Centre on Tuesday urged the media not to speculate about the extension of the nationwide lockdown till the time a decision is formally announced as it would create further confusion. “All this is related to social media discussion,” Joint Health Secretary Lav Agarwal said during Tuesday’s briefing. “Supreme Court has already instructed that unless it’s authentic information, it can create confusion among the public. Whatever decision we take based on the available facts, we will bring it to your notice.”

On Monday, the Centre had said it was closely monitoring the situation across the world and would declare its decision on the lockdown at the right time.