A Group of Ministers on COVID19 on Tuesday recommended extension of closure of all educational institutions and restricting all religious activities having public participation till May 15 irrespective of whether the government extends the 21-day lockdown or not, official sources said.
A meeting of the GoM chaired by defence minister Rajnath Singh and participated by home minister Amit Shah and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman concluded that religious centres, shopping malls and educational institutions must not be allowed to resume normal functioning at least for four weeks from April 14 when the current lockdown ends.
The thinking in the government is that schools and colleges will more less remain shut till end of June as the summer vacation will start from middle of May.
The GoM recommended that activities of all religious organisations should not be allowed till May 15 as a precautionary measure to check spread of coronavirus infection, the sources added.
The GoM has been tasked with monitoring the overall situation in the country arising out of the coronavirus pandemic and make recommendations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The GoM also briefly discussed possible scenarios after end of the current spell of the lockdown.
It recommended that the inputs of the states are crucial in taking specific decisions on measures to contain the pandemic.
The GoM also recommended measures to enhance testing facilities for coronavirus infection in medical laboratories, the sources said.
Opposition leaders as well as leading healthcare experts have been pressing the government to ramp up infrastructure to increase coronavirus tests across the country to have a realistic assessment of the situation arising out of the pandemic in India.
The meeting was also attended by several key members of the Union Cabinet including food minister Ram Vilas Paswan, railways minister Piyush Goyal and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar and HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
Chemicals and fertilisers minister D V Sadananda Gowda, women and child development minister Smriti Zubin Irani and Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat were also among those who attended the meeting.
The GoM also recommend monitoring of the public places like religious centres and malls through surveillance drones, the sources said.
Thousands of Tablighi Jamaat members gathered at its headquarters in Nizamuddin last month, ignoring warnings by the government against large gatherings.
A number of people who attended the congregation were found to be having coronavirus infection.
A sizeable number of people among them travelled to different states, spreading the infection of the virus.
Hundreds of people wered from the headquarters of Tablighi in Nizamuddin.
According to official figure, India has recorded a total of 4,789 positive cases of coronavirus and 124 deaths.
The GoM also expressed gratitude to thousands of health professionals, security personnel and countless others involved in ensuring smooth operation of essential services and supply chain of food and medicines since the 21-day lockdown came into force on the midnight of March 24, the sources said.
The GoM appreciated the decision of Union Cabinet to suspend the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme for two years to facilitate additional resources to fight the pandemic.
In a series of tweets, the defence minister said the GoM held an extensive discussion on the prevailing situation.
He said the ministers "shared their insights on how we can overcome the situation and help the people to stay motivated, determined and vigilant in the battle against COVID-19".
The ministers were briefed that supply of essential goods was continuing smoothly and no concerns were reported in this regard, the sources said.
Over the past few days, the government has received various suggestions from stakeholders, including experts and states on the strategy to be adopted when the lockdown ends.
Sources in the government said, most of them suggested that exit from the lockdown should be in a staggered manner.
Other suggestions included opening primary schools at a later stage and not immediately when the lockdown ends, restricting inter-state movement, plying of public transport for limited time and restricted access in offices where public footfall is high.