Lockdown Should Be Extended To Six-Eight Weeks: ICMR Chief

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'Lockdown Should Be Extended To Six-Eight Weeks': ICMR Chief

Dr Balram Bhargava, head of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in an interview, pointed out that lockdown restrictions should remain in place in all districts where the positivity rate is above 10%.

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The head of the top Indian health agency has opined that lockdown should be extended by six to eight weeks in districts reporting a high number of infections to contain the spread of the virus.

Dr Balram Bhargava, head of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in an interview, pointed out that lockdown restrictions should remain in place in all districts where the rate of infection is above 10% of those tested, reported LiveMint.

According to the official data, three-fourths of India's 718 districts have a test-positivity rate of above 10 per cent.

This is for the first time that a senior government official has outlined how long lockdowns need to continue to bring the rising caseload under control in India.

Referring to the situation in Delhi, where the positivity rate reached around 35 per cent but now stands at about 17 per cent, Bhargava said, "If Delhi is opened tomorrow, it will be a disaster."

The second wave of COVID-19 has led to around 350,000 daily new cases and 4,000 deaths being reported on a day to day basis. Many experts hold the opinion that the actual case tallies and deaths could be five to ten times higher than the official numbers.

Although Bhargava did not criticise the Modi government but agreed there had been a delay in responding to the crisis.

In a meeting held in April with the National Task Force on COVID-19, Bhargava had recommended strict lockdown in areas that have witnessed a 10 per cent positivity rate or higher.

Yet, in a televised speech, PM Modi had said that lockdown should be used as a "last resort", and the rather shifted the focus on "micro containment zones".

However, more than just ten days after the task force meeting, India's home (interior) ministry wrote to states, asking them to implement strict measures for "large containment areas" in districts where the situation is getting worse, for at least 14 days.

At the same time, Bhargava denied there was any discontent within the ICMR. He further added the agency was on the same page with policymakers. He further said that mass gatherings during COVID-19 should not be acceptable in India or anywhere else.

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