A day after announcing a nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that the fight against the pandemic is a war that Indians will fight for 21 days and emerge victorious. Modi said the 130 crore people of India will play the role that Krishna played in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, guiding the Pandavas to victory in war.

Addressing residents of his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi on the first day of the auspicious Navratri period, Modi said, “Today, the entire country is fighting a war against Coronavirus... Mahabharata was won in 18 days but the war against coronavirus will take 21 days.”

Modi reiterated his advice for people to follow the lockdown orders and stay indoors to fight against Covid-19. He told the listeners that health professionals working in white uniforms in hospitals are like God as they were “saving us by risking their own lives”.

In his address to the nation on Tuesday, Modi had said the government is on war footing amid the coronavirus pandemic. He had praised healthcare professionals, the police, journalists and essential service providers for being at the forefront of the government’s fight against the deadly disease. He had said the lockdown would take a toll on the economy but the priority was to save the lives of people.

The total number of cases of the coronavirus in India rose to 606 on Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, 553 are active cases, 42 patients have recovered, 10 have died and one has left the country.