New Delhi: As 235 more people were confirmed positive for the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, Union Ministry of Health officials on Thursday said the number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 2,069 and the death toll to 53 in the country. At this critical time, if you are thinking of making plans for travelling or going abroad after the 21-day nationwide lockdown gets over, then think again. As per updates from the government sources, the shutdown may not end on April 14 as it was planned earlier. Also Read - Amid Efforts to Trace All Markaz Attendees, Quarantined Jamaat Members Resist Testing, Misbehave With Medical Staff

During his interaction with chief ministers of all states, PM Modi is believed to have told them that the COVID-19 is a long-drawn battle and all need to find a way on how to withdraw the lockdown. Also Read - Tablighi Jamaat Chief Maulana Saad in Quarantine, Says Report; Raids Underway to Locate Him

The development comes as Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, soon after meeting PM Modi, wrote on Twitter: “The Prime Minister said that the State Government should not lift the lockdown immediately from April 15, but it should happen in phases. Precautions should be taken that there is no crowding.” Also Read - Tablighi Jamaat Congregation: States Scramble to Find Trails, Mode of Transport; Whereabouts of Maulana Saad Not Known

However, the Maharashtra CM didn’t mention anything about a prolonged shutdown but suggested that there may be a phased, rather than an abrupt withdrawal of shutdown.

On the other hand, government sources told news agency IANS that an abrupt withdrawal was never on the table. Sources further added that the efforts of social distancing for 21 days will go in vain, if trains and flights are allowed to function normally from the 22nd day itself. But, there is no clarity from the Central government whether the full shutdown will be extended or not.

The situation in the country got further complicated after many tested positive for the virus after attending the Tabhlighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi. However, the coming week will prove crucial on how the government is  preventing the spread of the infection. Depending on the trend of the infection, the central government will be able to take any major decision regarding the withdrawal of lockdown.

In the meantime, Arunachal CM Pema Khandu, in a tweet, said that lockdown will end on April 15, but sooner, he deleted the tweet. After the Chief Ministers’ teleconference with PM Modi, Khandu had tweeted: “Completion of lockdown will end on April 15 next. But it doesn’t mean free will to move out on streets. We all must be responsible in slowing down. Lockdown and social distancing (is) the only way to fight COVID19. PM @NarendraModi.”

Meanwhile, PM Modi on Thursday evening said that he will release a short video on Friday morning where he will address fellow citizens of the country. However, it is not clear whether PM Modi will talk about the withdrawal of the lockdown on April 14.

During the interaction with chief ministers, PM Modi asked for suggestion from them on how to end this shutdown.

As per updates from the Health Ministry, Maharashtra has reported the most deaths (21) so far, followed by Gujarat (7), Madhya Pradesh (6), Punjab (4), Karnataka (3), Telengana (3), West Bengal (3), Delhi (4), Jammu and Kashmir (2), Uttar Pradesh (2) and Kerala (2). Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh have reported one death each.

According to Health Ministry officials, the highest number of coronavirus confirmed cases have been reported from Maharashtra over 400 so far, followed by Kerala at 265 and Tamil Nadu at 234. The number of cases in Delhi, on the other hand, has gone up to 219.