Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that a countrywide lockdown would come into effect from midnight on Tuesday in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown would last for 21 days, Modi said. “If we are not able to manage the upcoming 21 days [of lockdown] we will be pushed back by 21 years,” Modi said.
Essential services such as grocery shops, dairies and milk booths, hospitals, nursing homes, police, fire stations and ATMs will continue to work, the Ministry of Home Affairs said after Modi’s address.
The Centre had on Sunday suspended all train, metro and interstate bus services across the country till March 31 in unprecedented steps to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
By Tuesday evening, as many as 32 states and Union Territories had imposed complete lockdowns or curfews. However, there have been reports of people breaking curfew to roam about on the streets. Many such individuals have been arrested.
Modi said the measures imposed by the state governments have to be taken seriously. He said the decision to close down the country was taken based on the experiences of health experts and actions taken by other countries.
He also admitted that there would be an economic cost due to the shutdown. “No doubt, this lockdown will entail an economic cost for the entire nation,” the prime minister said. “But saving the life of every Indian is the first priority for me, the Government of India, the state governments and the local administration.”
Modi said that health experts believe that it will take at least 21 days of lockdown to break the cycle of transmission of Covid-19.
The prime minister announced that the Centre has made an allocation of Rs 15,000 crore for strengthening the health infrastructure in the country. “We will be able to increase the number of testing facilities, personal protection equipment, isolation wards, ICU beds and more essentials using these funds,” Modi said.
Modi said the Centre was working with the state governments, the local administrations and civil society to alleviate the difficulties faced by the poor during the lockdown. He said a number of people are coming forward to help.
The prime minister appealed to the people to think about the doctors and medical staff who are working around the clock to save lives. “You must also think about the journalists who are working 24 hours to give you correct information and are being exposed to the risks of the pandemic,” he added.
Modi said police personnel are facing anger from some people while doing their job. “Think about the police officials who without worrying about their families, are working to save you and your family,” he said.
The prime minister asked people not to believe in rumours and superstitions about the coronavirus. He said people must heed only credible medical advice.
The prime minister had earlier addressed the country on Friday, asking people to observe a “janata curfew” on Sunday from 7 am to 9 pm.
There have been 519 cases of the coronavirus in India so far, and 10 people have died, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. On Monday, Modi had expressed anguish over the fact that many people were not taking the lockdowns seriously. The Centre asked the states to take stringent action against those violating the measures.
Globally, over 3,95,000 people have been infected, and 17,241 have died, according to an estimate by the Johns Hopkins University.