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India’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown has been extended until May 3, India’s conservative prime minister said Tuesday.
India’s lockdown is the biggest in the world, affecting 1.3 billion people. The move to extend the lockdown went into effect despite complaints, as India’s some 360 million people living in poverty say they have been left without support as income sources dried up.
"From the economic angle, we have paid a big price," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. "But the lives of the people of India are far more valuable."
Indian policeman wearing virus themed helmets ride on motorcycles during an awareness rally aimed at preventing the spread of new coronavirus in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, April 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
"From the experiences of the last few days, it is clear that the path we have chosen is correct."
India began a three-week lockdown on March 25, and it was scheduled to end at midnight Tuesday.
The lockdown allowed Indians to leave their homes only for essentials, and religious gatherings were explicitly banned. Authorities then sealed off dozens of COVID-19 hot spots in the capital of New Delhi and the neighboring Uttar Pradesh state.
Government officials said that people in hot spot areas would receive food, medicines and other supplies at their doorsteps, and would not be allowed to leave these areas.
"It would have been better if Modi Government would have announced certain relief measures with the extension of lockdown,” Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot told India Today TV.
After instituting the lockdown in March, Modi sought forgiveness from the nation's poor.
“Especially when I look at my poor brothers and sisters, I definitely feel that they must be thinking, what kind of prime minister is this who has placed us in this difficulty?” Modi said in March. “I especially seek their forgiveness.”
Modi said there would be “relaxed limitations” beginning April 20 for districts with no cases, and new guidelines for industry and agriculture would be released Wednesday.
"We have tried to keep the interests of the poor and the daily wage workers in mind while making these new guidelines," Modi said in his address, according to AFP.
Southeast Asian nations appear relatively unscathed by the epidemic, given their large, densely populated metropolitan regions. India has confirmed 10,453 coronavirus cases and 358 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University figures as of Tuesday morning.
However, some experts say not enough tests have been conducted in the country and the true number of infections is likely much higher.