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Govt Rules Out Immediate Airlifting of Indians Stranded Abroad, Decision After Lockdown Ends on May 3

Coronavirus Pandemic LIVE Updates: India today crossed the 17,000-mark for Covid-19 cases while the death toll rose to 543. Of the total 17,265 cases, 14,175 are active, while 2,546 are cured.

The numbers come on a day when the country takes the first step towards relaxing restrictions imposed during the lockdown announced by the Centre on March 24 to arrest the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The government, with an aim to reboot the economy, has allowed activities related to agriculture and horticulture from today because of the approaching harvest season and the potential of bumper wheat crops, plantation work for tea, coffee and rubber, and industries in rural areas, Special Economic Zones and industrial townships.

Economic activities to be functional will include non-banking financial corporations and micro-finance institutions that have now been marked as essential, while services like electricians, plumbers and repairmen will also be permitted.

Construction, in rural areas, of water supply and sanitation, and laying of power lines and telecom optical fibres and cables will also be allowed, according to the home ministry.

The re-opening, albeit in a limited manner, will be good news for the lakhs of unemployed migrant workers and daily labourers who had been left jobless by the ban on activity under the lockdown.

While the health ministry data suggests that the rate of new infections has tapered, experts have said it is hard to gauge much from the data as India has still only tested a limited proportion of its population, despite testing being expanded in the last fortnight.

Health minister Dr Harshvardhan, at a videoconference with counterparts of G20 nations, said that as a result of the lockdown the doubling rate for infections has gone from 3.4 days on March 17, to 4.4 days on March 25, and is currently about 7.4 days.

Three states – Telangana, Punjab and Delhi – decided on Sunday not to ease the lockdown restrictions in line with the Centre’s guidelines.

While Delhi and Punjab governments said there will be no relaxations till the lockdown ends on May 3, the K Chandrasekhar Rao government in Telangana decided to extend the complete lockdown in the state till May 7.