Modi Orders 3-Week Total Lockdown for All 1.3 Billion Indians
With four hours’ notice, India’s prime minister announced that no one could leave their homes for 21 days — the most severe step taken anywhere in the war against the coronavirus.
In a televised address on Tuesday night, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced that for the next 21 days, almost one fifth of the world’s population should “forget what going out means”.
He said that the entire country will be under lockdown for 21 days which he said is required to break the cycle of infection.
“Every state, every union territory, every district, every village and every locality is being put under a lockdown. This is in effect a curfew, more stringent than the Janta Curfew,” PM Modi said explaining the new measure which comes into force from midnight tonight.
“There will be an economic cost, but saving the life of each and every Indian is the first priority for me,” he added. “I request you to remain wherever you are in the country.”
“From 12 midnight today, the entire country will go under a complete lockdown to save India and for every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” said Modi. “Therefore, I request you to remain wherever you are in this country.”
“You have seen the worldwide situations arising from the coronavirus pandemic in the news. You have also seen how the most powerful nations have become helpless in the face of this pandemic,” Modi said in a live televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening ahead of the deadline.
My fellow citizens,— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 24, 2020
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO PANIC.
Essential commodities, medicines etc. would be available. Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this.
Together, we will fight COVID-19 and create a healthier India.
India is the world’s second most populous country and the fifth biggest economy, but so far, it has appeared to avoid the full hit of the pandemic. The country has confirmed 519 coronavirus cases, including 10 deaths and 39 patients who have been cured, according to the Ministry of Health.
A number of Indian states have ordered lockdowns in the past few days, in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading. International borders have been shut to most travellers coming from the Europe.
Modi said if the outbreak was not dealt with properly it could set the country back decades.
“According to health experts, a minimum of 21 days is most crucial to break the cycle of infection. If we are not able to manage this pandemic in the next 21 days, the country and your family will be setback by 21 years. If we are not able to manage the next 21 days, then many families will be destroyed forever,” Modi said.
To soften the economic blow from the shutdown, the Indian government announced a number of measures on Tuesday.
Deadlines to file tax returns have been extended by three months, charges on minimum bank balances have been waived and no fees will be charged for using other banks’ ATMs.
The threshold for invoking insolvency has been raised to $131,000 from $1,300, India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a news conference earlier on Tuesday.
The announcement prompted panic buying across the country, with many thousands rushing out to get supplies and queues forming outside grocery shops, as Modi did not specify whether people would be allowed out for food shopping, though he later clarified this in a tweet.
By converging around shops, you are risking the spread of COVID-19.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 24, 2020
No panic buying please.
Please stay indoors.
I repeat- Centre and State Governments will ensure all essentials are available. https://t.co/bX00az1h7l
Again the poorest will be hit the hardest
The announcement is likely to have a devastating impact on the 300 million Indians who live below the poverty line and survive hand to mouth based on daily earnings. Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has promised a comprehensive relief package will be announced soon.
In Delhi, which has been under lockdown since Sunday, with state borders closed, taxis and rickshaws cleared from the roads, all but essential travel banned and shops and restaurants shut, the chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, set up shelters across the city where people could come for free meals.
The lockdown measures brought in by Modi were in line with what experts have recommended as necessary for India, though it remains unclear how they will be enforced in a democracy of more than a billion people.
Rupam Bhattacharya, a member of the Cov-Ind-19 study group of researchers at the University of Michigan that’s looking specifically into the coronavirus outbreak in India, said: “This pandemic is growing quick, and the only way we can cope with it is by keeping up with its pace by bringing rapid and strict precautionary measures into action.”
He added: “If too many people get affected at the same time, it creates an immense pressure on the healthcare system, which will be even more pressing on the high-population, low-resource infrastructure that India has, and may lead to an eventual collapse.”
Separately, India’s Labor Ministry has advised all territories to to help construction workers who are out of work because of the outbreak. The vast majority of the country’s construction workers are considered as informal labor and earn their livelihood through daily wages. Around 35 million construction workers across the country are registered with construction welfare boards.