India Extends Lockdown Until May 31 Amid Surging Infections

India’s government has extended its nationwide lockdown until May 31, while further easing restrictions in certain sectors to boost economic activity as coronavirus cases escalate across the country.
Sports complexes and stadiums will now be able to operate without spectators and interstate travel will be allowed with permits, the home ministry said in a statement on Sunday evening. Public transport, along with malls, cinemas, schools, gymnasium and tourist spots will remain closed.
The government is hoping to ease the economic impact of the world’s biggest lockdown, which has crippled business activity and left millions jobless.
India Turns to Reforms to Keep Virus From Sinking Its Economy
The announcement followed Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s fifth briefing in as many days, in which she outlined details of the country’s $265 billion virus rescue package, which is equivalent to 10% of India’s gross domestic product. Almost half of this comprises monetary measures announced since February.
Infections are surging across the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people, with more than 91,300 infections, including 2,897 deaths as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Output Shrinks
The extension was announced days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said people must fight the coronavirus epidemic and move forward. “We would wear masks, follow two yards distance and pursue our goals,” he said while addressing the nation on May 12.
India Reopens Economy But Millions of Workers Stay Home
India has been under a stringent nationwide lockdown since March 25, even though some restrictions were eased on April 20 to allow farmers and industries to resume operations in rural areas and in districts that were free of infections. The lockdown was scheduled to end on May 17.
Still, companies are facing difficulties reopening factories — primarily because of travel restrictions, conflicting rules, broken supply chains and a shortage of workers. The movement of millions of migrant workers from the cities where they had jobs to their homes in rural villages — and their reluctance to return — is one of the key challenges for the economy, which could be heading for its first full-year contraction in more than four decades.
A survey of purchasing managers at factories released on May 6 signaled the steepest fall in activity in April since IHS Markit began compiling the data, while the country’s factory output shrank 16.7% in March.