Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day nationwide “curfew”, or a lockdown, to contain the spread of COVID-19. He appealed to the people “with folded hands” to practise strict social distancing.
Subsequent to the PM’s speech, the Union home ministry, in an unprecedented move, announced shutting down all government and private establishments, apart from those involved in essential services, and all modes of transport, during the duration of the lockdown.
The PM said unless India’s 1.3 billion people practised social distancing, and the “chain of its spread not broken” within these 21 days, the coronavirus outbreak could push the country back by 21 years, and several families would be devastated forever.
The nationwide lockdown came into effect on Tuesday midnight and will continue until April 14.
The PM’s announcement led to people resorting to panic buying at several places in the country.
A little after the speech, Modi tweeted the home ministry guidelines, which said all essential services and supplies would be maintained during the duration of the lockdown. He appealed to the people not to panic.
orkers spray disinfectant in a residential area to contain the spread of coronavirus. PTI
“By converging around shops, you are risking the spread of COVID-19. No panic buying please. Please stay indoors. I repeat- Centre and State Governments will ensure all essentials are available,” the PM tweeted.
“My fellow citizens, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO PANIC. Essential commodities, medicines etc. would be available. Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this. Together, we will fight COVID-19 and create a healthier India. Jai Hind!” he tweeted.
The PM said the Centre had allocated Rs 15,000 crore to strengthen the country’s health infrastructure.
This will be used to increase testing capacities, provisions of personal protective equipment (PPE), isolation and ICU beds, ventilators, and other resources to fight the pandemic.
He said the fund would also be used for training medical and paramedics.
Passengers in a train after lockdown at New Delhi railway station. Photo: PTI
“Co-ro-na yaani koi road par na nikle,” the prime minister said in his speech, displaying a placard in Hindi. He said the pandemic had brought several developed countries, like Italy and the US, with some of the world’s best health infrastructure, to their knees.
In a 29-minute address to the nation, his second in a week on the pandemic, the prime minister lauded the people for making Sunday’s ‘janata curfew’ a success. He, however, said the 21-day lockdown would be a stricter “curfew” where they should not cross the “lakshman rekha”, or the threshold of their homes.
Most states and union territories are currently under a lockdown at least until March 31, and the PM’s announcement extends it by another two weeks. “Jaan hai toh jahan hai (the world exists only when we live),” he said, recalling a Hindi idiom to stress the urgency of his appeal.
“To save India, to save every Indian, there will be a complete ban on people from stepping outside their houses from 12 midnight today,” he said. “Lockdown is being imposed on every state, union territory, district, village, mohalla and street,” the PM said.
Amid reports that some people had resorted to self-medication to cure the disease, Modi cautioned people to not take any medicines without the advice of the doctor.
He said there would be a massive economic cost because of the lockdown, but it needed to be done to save India, save each and every citizen of India.
Modi appealed to the people to follow the advisories and instructions of the Centre and state governments.
“Please remember that those infected with coronavirus initially look healthy, and do not show any symptoms of the infection,” Modi said.
“It took 67 days for it (COVID) to infect one lakh people at first, but only 11 days to reach a total of two lakh people. This is even more alarming that it took only four days for this disease to reach three lakh people from the count of two lakh. If we want to restrict the spread of the coronavirus, we will have to break its chain of infection,” the prime minister, pointing at the World Health Organization data, said.
Modi said when coronavirus spread in countries such as China, the US, France, Germany, Spain and Iran, their systems collapsed under the weight of the number of patients.
“Please remember, the health infrastructure of Italy and the US is one of the best in the world and despite that these countries could not check the spread of coronavirus,” Modi said. He said India was at a stage when the next 21 days would decide its future.
He asked people to spare a thought for those who were risking their lives to provide essential services — doctors, nurses, police officials, those cleaning public places, and media professionals.
The PM said the Centre and state governments were working round the clock to ensure people got essential supplies. He said this grim period was going to be a difficult time for the poorest, but the priority right now was to save lives.
Modi said he asked state governments to focus on providing health care to people. He said the private sector’s cooperation in this hour of need was a matter of satisfaction, and private hospitals and labs were helping the government’s efforts.
The PM asked the people not to get misled by rumours.
He lamented that some people suffered from this wrong mindset that only infected persons needed to follow social distancing, warning that such a view could endanger the lives of others and their loved ones.
“It will be impossible to estimate the price India will have to pay if this carelessness continues. Currently India is at a stage where our current actions will determine how much we are able to minimise the impact of this disaster,” he said.