A customer wears a mask as mandated by shops in Pune on Wednesday. (Express photo/Arul Horizon)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday asked states to fight rumours of lockdown, and said “unlock, unlock, unlock” should be the way forward as they fight to control the pandemic and ramp up healthcare facilities.

“Dekhiye ab hamein unlock ke phase hi dhoondhte rehna hai. Hamein unlock, unlock, unlock ki disha mein hi kadam uthaate jaana hai (We need to find ways to open further… we need to take steps only in the direction of unlock-unlock-unlock),” he said, addressing the second batch of Chief Ministers of 14 states and the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.

Six of the 14 states — Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal — whose CMs attended the video conference on Wednesday, account for 76 per cent of total Covid cases, and 80 per cent of all Covid-related deaths, in the country. The others who participated in the meeting included CMs of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Telangana and Odisha.

PM Modi urged states with a heavy load of Covid cases to prioritise expansion of health infrastructure. He urged them to focus on testing by utilising their full capacity, quick tracing, tracking and isolating those affected, as a strategy to contain the virus spread.

The Centre on Thursday lifted the export ban on anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and its formulations. The government on March 25 had banned the export of the drug in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Thursday said that under the Centre’s Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA), migrants across 116 districts will be given work under. “Everyone who needs an assignment in these 116 districts will be given work under Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, broad estimated expenditure for the scheme is Rs 50,000 crores, the money allotted for this will be front-loaded,” Sitharaman said.

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Fitch Ratings, meanwhile, revised the country’s outlook to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’, stating that the pandemic has significantly weakened India’s growth prospects for the year and exposed the challenges associated with a high public-debt burden.

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