In an unprecedented interaction over the emerging COVID-19 crisis in India, President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday suggested all the Governors and Lieutenant Governors of the country to make all out efforts to supplement medical relief and food distribution in their respective states and territories.

In a three- hour long video conference, the President said Medical Universities, Red Cross Society, NGOs working in the field of relief and medical care should be roped in for their vital contribution in this hour of crisis.

At least 15 Governors, including Lt. Governors provided valuable suggestions to the President on various key issues.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan said that 18,000 doctors of various private institutions, including the ones who have retired are working with the state government to fight COVID-19 pandemic.

Laying emphasis on social distancing to keep away the dreaded infection, Arif Mohammed Khan, known for his study on Urdu and Arabic culture, recited a couplet quoting Bashir Badra, “Yun hee besabab na fira karo, Koi sham ghar me raha karo.”

Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon informed the President that except Indore, the situation in one of the biggest Hindi heartland states is normal. “Indore has some problems but the government is taking all measures to normalise the situation,” Tandon said, according to official sources.

Maharashtra which has the highest number of COVID-19 positive cases was heard on top priority. Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari was of the view that social distancing has been adhered in the urban areas. However, in the rural pockets efforts are being made through administrative machinery and voluntary organisation to educate and ensure that village population stays away from getting too close.

Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal also spoke for quite some time and informed that he along with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal are holding meetings on a daily basis with top bureaucrats, including District Collectors, and police officials including Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCPs) to closely monitor the situation in the national capital. The LG assured that medical and provision stores are being allowed to function in a 24×7 mode so that there is no shortage of food and grocery items.

The Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu who was live on the conference from his residence suggested that help of artists, film stars and leading persons from the private sectors should be sought for an awareness campaign on social distancing and also in contribution of relief work during the countrywide lockdown which continues through next two weeks. Naidu was of the view that in Maharashtra and several southern states, there is no dearth of artists and film stars who had always stood by the country in such grim situations.

The three- hour long meeting with a break of half an hour, also decided that 8,000 medically trained volunteers of Red Cross society of India will help state health officials in challenging task of taking care of the infected persons.

President Kovind appreciated the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet colleagues and all Chief Ministers of the country who are working round the clock to tackle the menace of the COVID-19.

The President also suggested that the golden rule of social distancing must be followed to prevent the transmission of the virus in the community. Besides steps should be taken to ensure a regular supply of food chain across the country.

Meanwhile, the number of Coronavirus cases has risen to 724 in the country with 17 deaths.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 announced a “total lockdown” across the country, asking people to “forget about stepping out of their homes” for the next three weeks.

In view of the lockdown, India has suspended all domestic and international passenger flights till April 14.