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PM Modi extends lockdown till May 3, urges people to download Aarogya Setu app

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today extended India’s nationwide lockdown to May 3 and urged citizens to download the government’s Aarogya Setu contact-tracing app — privacy concerns of which have been raised — as one of the steps to fight the spread of COVID-19. “To help stop spread of the corona infection, download the Aarogya Setu mobile app, and inspire others to download it,” PM Modi said.

As the number of positive cases soared, the Indian government quietly launched Aarogya Setu on April 2. The app — meaning “bridge of health” — uses Bluetooth and location services to track if a user came into contact with a person “who could have tested COVID-19 positive”. If a user of this app tests positive, the government will contact all other registered users that the infected person came in contact with over the last 30 days.

Since the app was launched, the government has bombarded citizens with advertisements in newspaper and bulk SMSes to download the app. PM Modi has also publicly urged people to download the app, calling it an “important step in our fight against COVID-19”. It provides important information by leveraging technology and “as more and more people use it, its effectiveness will increase” he said in an April 8 tweet. Messaging company ShareChat has set aside Rs 5 crore in ad credits to promote the app on its platform, after the government urged public and private players to promote the app.

A day ahead of PM Modi’s address, two of the worst-affected states, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, joined Odisha, Haryana, Punjab and Telangana in extending their lockdown ending April 14 midnight till April 30. In the past 24 hours, there have been 51 deaths and 905 cases — the highest single-day toll for the country. India now has 10,453 cases and 358 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data.

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