Coronavirus lockdown for 3 months? Centre mulls financial package for the poor, unorganised sector: Report

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The central government is looking to tackle the coronavirus pandemic with a three-week to three-month long action plan, including a financial package, as per The Economic Times sources.

The plan will include inputs from at least 14 ministries and the state governments to deal with the virus at “various stages of the outbreak,” sources told the paper.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.

As per the plan, the Centre has ramped up testing, identified testing and quarantine centres across districts, and has a plan for dedicated COVID-19 hospitals for treatment in every district.

A significant financial package for the poor and the unorganised sector will also be announced in a phased manner. “If we do not give money in the hands of the poor they will defy the lockdown,” an official said.

In phase 1, states governments would be expected to dole out two months’ pension in advance, facilitate extra withdrawal of ration in one-trip, ensure mid-day meals programme despite school closures and provide expectant mothers with dry ration through Aanganwadi workers.

The government is also mulling advance payments through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and PM-KISAN – to be announced over three to six weeks.

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The staggered plan will be employed to refrain from exhausting options too early, as “we do not want the epidemic to outlast our ability to intervene,” another official added.

The aim is to be “preemptive and early” and “timely and effective”, on the health and fiscal sides. Phase 2 will be rolled out depending on the virus trajectory in India and how successful the current lockdown is, officials said.

The government is also awaiting assessment on ‘community transmission’ and its extent, which sources say will be clearer over the next two weeks. If the numbers keep surging, the government will have to plan for after April 14, which is when the lockdown ends.

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