Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged India’s 1.3 billion citizens to put themselves under self-curfew on Sunday to protect themselves from the coronavirus, hours after the government announced it was barring all international flights from landing in the country for a week starting March 22.
“We are a developing nation and for a country like us, this corona crisis is not an ordinary thing,” Modi said Thursday evening in an address to the nation, noting the pandemic had hit India’s economy.
A task force called Covid-19 under the finance minister will study impact of the disease. Modi assured there will be no shortage of food, medicines, milk and other supplies, and appealed against panic buying. People older than 60-65 should stay at home and the healthcare system must not be burdened with "unnecessary demand".
"For the last few days, it looks like if we are safe from the coronavirus. This belief is not right. Hence, it is very important for every Indian to remain aware and alert," he said in his nearly 30-minute speech on television.
India has 173 confirmed cases, including four deaths so far -- for now the biggest challenge for Modi is to shield an economy that’s set to expand at the slowest pace in more than a decade.
States have also been asked to stop large public gatherings and curtail public transport services to a minimum, Lav Agarwal, a joint secretary in the health ministry, said at a separate press briefing in New Delhi. Educational institutions, exam centers and theater halls have been closed temporarily.