Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced complete lockdown of the entire India, as part of government’s stringent efforts to tackle coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“Today, I am going to announce a very important measure in our fight against Covid-19. The entire country will be under lockdown from today. The complete lockdown will come into effect from midnight tonight,” PM Modi said in his address to the nation. This lockdown will be in place for 21 days and more stringent than Janta Curfew, he added.
The Prime Minister described the situation in different countries due to the pandemic that has infected more than 350,000 people and killed over 16,000.
“This virus has been spreading very fast across the world. It spreads like wildfire. Looking at the experience of these countries, and what the experts say, the only successful way to tackle the spread of the virus is social distancing,” said the Prime Minister.
Some people believe that social distancing is only for those who are infected with the disease. It’s not true, and this thought will be detrimental for you, for me and for everyone. Social distancing is for everyone, even for the Prime Minister,” said PM Modi.
This was the second time in a week when PM Modi addressed the country on the fast-spreading disease. In a television address last Thursday, PM Modi had highlighted the threat posed by the Sars-Cov-2 virus, which causes Covid-19 disease, and appealed to people to practise social distancing and work from home.
He had also asked Indians to observe ‘Janta Curfew’, a self-imposed restraint measure to keep themselves and others in the society safe.
The Janta Curfew was in place for 14 hours on Sunday - from 7 am to 9 pm. And, as advised by the Prime Minister, people stayed off the roads and public places during this period.
PM Modi had also apprised the nation of an emergency task force to mitigate the economic challenges stemming from the crisis.
States under lockdown
Earlier, India suspended all passenger train and inter-state bus services till March 31 and more states imposed unprecedented restrictions to contain the spread of the infection. Delhi, Jharkhand, Punjab and Nagaland declared a statewide lockdown while similar curbs were announced in a number of districts in Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Several states, including Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, had earlier imposed a partial or complete lockdown.
The Union health ministry said one death each was reported from Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra on Sunday taking the toll to 10. As the virus cases climbed to 415, Union home ministry officials said the central and state governments decided to completely lock down 80 districts in 17 states from where Covid-19 cases have been reported while the states can extend the list of districts as they deem fit.
The health ministry said states would earmark hospitals to exclusively treat coronavirus patients. The government was also expanding the network of labs for testing samples from suspected cases.
Millions of people stayed indoors to observe a ‘Janta curfew’ on Sunday after an appeal by Prime Minister Modi, but they stood outside their homes or in their balconies at 5pm to thank the health workers at the forefront of the fight against the virus. Shortly thereafter, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announced that his government was placing the national capital under a lockdown. Nagaland said it was imposing an indefinite lockdown from midnight Sunday.
India’s leading automakers, including Maruti Suzuki India, Mahindra & Mahindra and Honda Cars, announced suspension of manufacturing activities at their plants. Fiat also put brakes on production in the country till the end of this month.
In the two-wheeler segment, Hero MotoCorp and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India said they were suspending production.
Earlier on Sunday, the Railways announced it was suspending all passenger services until March 31 and said only goods trains will run during the period. The suspension includes all suburban train services. Trains that commenced their journey prior to 4 am on March 22 will complete their journeys, it said, adding that passengers can claim a full refund for trains cancelled during this period till June 21. The Railways has also ordered closure of all its museums, heritage galleries and heritage parks till April 15.
The government also suspended all inter-state bus services until March 31. The extraordinary decisions were taken a day after the Railways reported three incidents (12 positive cases) of people asked to remain in quarantine travelling on trains and amid an exodus of people from urban areas to their home states, raising fears of the virus spreading to the countryside.
The West Bengal government said in a notification that Kolkata and several other areas of the state will be under lockdown from Monday 5 pm till Mar 27. According to the Health Ministry, Maharashtra has reported the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 67, followed by Kerala (52) and Delhi (29). Uttar Pradesh has recorded 27 cases, Telangana 22, Rajasthan 24 and Haryana 21. Karnataka has 26 patients. Punjab has 21 cases while Gujarat has 18.