Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday chaired a virtual meeting with chief ministers of seven states and Union Territories that have the highest number of coronavirus cases in India.
In the meeting, also attended by health ministers, Modi announced that states can use 50% of the State Disaster Relief Fund to rein in the pandemic. The earlier limit was 35%.
More than 63% of the active cases of the country are concentrated in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Punjab, according to a press release by the prime minister’s office.
Modi said states should increase their focus on effective testing, tracing, treatment, surveillance and clear messaging to tackle the health crisis. “Effective messaging is also necessary because most Covid-19 infections are without symptoms,” he said. “In such a situation, rumours may rise. It might raise doubts in the minds of the people that testing is bad. Some people also make mistake of underestimating the severity of infection.”
The prime minister emphasised that people should continue to wear masks. “It is difficult to make wearing masks a habit, but we will not be able to get the desired results if we don’t make it a part of our daily life,” he said.
He directed states and Union Territories to not stop the movement of goods as it affects both people and livelihood. “We need to ensure that the sync between states is smooth,: he said. “Constant monitoring will help in continuing the supply chain. Even during difficult times, India has fulfilled the needs of the world with life-saving medicines. In such a scenario, we must ensure seamless transport of medicines from one state to other.”
In the meeting, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said urgent steps must be taken to ensure adequate supplies are received from other states, according to a statement released from his office. “He also sought expeditious release of Rs 200 crore that the state government had requested as the next tranche of central aid for Covid management,” it added.
Singh, citing experts, said coronavirus conditions might be aggravated due to stubble burning and sought fiscal assistance from the Centre for farmers. “Though the state government is launching an aggressive media campaign to educate farmers and people in general, giving the linkage with Covid, it was imperative for the government of India to step in with the Rs 100/quintal compensation the state has been seeking for the farmers to manage the paddy straw,” the statement said.
India’s coronavirus cases increased again on Wednesday, a day after falling to their lowest figure in almost a month. The country recorded 83,347 new cases, taking the tally to 56.46 lakh. With 1,085 more deaths, the toll crossed the 90,000-mark. Tuesday’s figure of 75,083 new cases was the lowest since September 1, and Wednesday’s count is below the record 97,894 hit on September 17. India has been consistently reporting the world’s highest daily tallies of infections.