PM Modi to address the nation today at 8 pm
NEW DELHI: PM Modi chaired a review meeting on Wednesday to review the ongoing efforts to contain COVID-19 and will address the nation on Thursday on the efforts to combat it.
Modi is closely monitoring the situation daily and discussed on Wednesday the ways to further strengthen India’s preparedness, including further enhancing testing facilities and actively engaging with individuals, local communities and organizations in chalking our mechanisms to fight the COVID-19 menace.
The next 15 days are crucial in India’s battle against the COVID-19 outbreak and all efforts are being made to contain the spread of the disease during this period and in April, said government officials. The effort is to flatten the curve of infected cases in this period and sustaining the same over April.
Underlining that India was the first to stop incoming travelers from abroad, from March 13, officials said the “positive impact” of this decision should be seen by the end of the month as all positive coronavirus cases in India so far have been related to people coming from abroad and that it takes one-two weeks for the symptoms to appear.
“It was a major call (on March 11) and some termed it sudden but it came quickly in a few hours after the WHO (World Health Organization) declared coronavirus a global pandemic and our assessment of the cases,” said a senior official, who did not wish to be identified. “The US, with far more cases, announced a ban only on travel from Europe soon after and is now planning to expand it. The bar on incoming travelers was raised thereafter by India and we are ahead of the curve.”
Officials also highlighted that the PM has been in touch with leaders in SAARC countries as well as G20, aiming at both regional and international partnerships to take on the epidemic, amid an early acknowledgement that no country has the expertise to fight COVID-19 alone. While steps are already afoot for a cooperation and creation of a fund following the PM’s video conference with SAARC leaders earlier this week, a similar effort with G20 countries is also on the cards after PM Modi first spoke about it with the Australian PM and then Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, as Saudi Arabia is the chair of G20.
“These initiatives by the PM are the first from a world leader on COVID-19 and could go a long way in a united fight against the disease by India, US, UK and European Union through the G20 platform,” said an official.
India was among the earliest to bring its citizens back from abroad, including China, with Modi stressing upon these humanitarian steps in various meetings, officials said. Modi has also asked the country’s principal scientific advisor to devise a strategy through a core team of experts to tackle COVID-19, much like UK PM Boris Johnson, who is working closely with the UK government’s chief scientific advisor.
Modi has also held conversations with CMs of states like Maharashtra and UP which are reporting more cases and discussed steps being taken. The principal secretary to PM, PK Mishra, has been deputed by Modi to hold regular video conferences with states to ensure a coordinated approach. “Such efforts have ensured no shortage of testing kits or essential medicines,” said the official.
In his review meetings, Modi has stressed on spreading education on precautions and stopping the spread of panic. The message “seems to have hit home”, according to officials. The step to involve the private sector for testing and treatment is aimed at escalating response mechanism in event of a sharp increase in cases, amid a suggestion within the government to conduct a sample survey in the community to assess ‘community spread’, said officials.