Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday apologised to Indians for the hardships they were enduring due to the 21-day lockdown to control the coronavirus outbreak, but said it was necessary. Modi made the remark during his monthly “Mann ki Baat” radio programme.

“Especially, the poor must be thinking, what kind of prime minister is this, that he put us into such difficulty?” Modi said. “I especially ask for their forgiveness.”

Modi said a lot of people would be upset that they have been locked up in their homes. “I understand your difficulties and your worries, but for a country of 130 crore people, there was no other way of fighting the coronavirus than to take this step,” Modi said. “The war against coronavirus is a war of life and death, and we have to win this war.”

Modi said it is always necessary to fight a disease during its initial stages, as treatment becomes difficult later. “The coronavirus does not distinguish between the rich and poor, strong and weak,” Modi said. “It is not limited to any national borders, nor does it limit itself to any sector or any season.”

The prime minister said the people of the country will have to endure the present state of affairs for several days. He added that some people erroneously believe they are protecting others by following the regulations during the lockdown. Modi said the restrictions are for one’s own protection, and for that of one’s family.

The prime minister said some people are still not following the restrictions because they do not understand the grave nature of the problem. “I will tell such people that not following restrictions will make it very difficult for you to escape the coronavirus,” Modi said. Modi said many people around the world who harboured such illusions were now regretting them.

The prime minister also paid tribute to health workers who are at the forefront of fighting the pandemic, calling them “frontline soldiers”. He added that while people must practice social distancing, they must avoid emotional distancing.

“We have to understand that social distancing does not mean the end of social interaction,” Modi said. “This is the time to revive all your old social relationships, make them anew. Increase social distancing, reduce emotional distancing.”

The coronavirus pandemic has so far infected 979 people in India and killed 25 of them, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Globally, the number of cases has risen to over 6,65,000, and the toll has crossed 30,000, according to an estimate by Johns Hopkins University.