India announces 21-day nationwide lockdown to battle coronavirus

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

As a result of a two-month study of these countries as well as insight from experts, Modi declared, "social distancing is the only option to combat (coronavirus), that is to remain apart from each other and stay confined to your homes".

India has found 482 cases of the coronavirus and nine people have died from the COVID-19 disease it causes but alarm is growing across the region about prospects for its spread into impoverished communities and the ability of resource-starved public health sectors to cope.

Modi addressed the nation for a second time in a week on Tuesday on the risks to the country of 1.3 billion people.

The announcement set off panic in many neighbourhoods as people rushed to markets to stock up on supplies.

"WHO (World Health Organization) says the Covid-19 infected person can transmit hundreds of people in a matter of week". Global borders have been shut to most travelers coming from the Europe. Cities that normally teem with crowds - such as the country's capital, New Delhi - have gone eerily silent in recent days, as authorities tested curfew measures and domestic travel measures took effect.

"It is a risky environment, with this coronavirus", he told reporters. He said the central government plans to put almost $2 billion toward ramping up its health care infrastructure - including producing hospital beds, ventilators and other medical equipment.

Public health experts believe the attempt to quarantine a deadly virus won't work without an effective mitigation strategy.

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"The government should also provide financial assistance to daily wage labourers and people of financially weaker sections because this kind of lockdown will impact them the most and they will find it hard to live in the absence of work".

"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. He said, people should avoid going to hospitals for routine check-ups. "They are often wearing facemasks, but they're back in the store".

The hospital had no N95 masks, the higher-quality masks created to offer better protection for health workers, and medical staff were being forced to treat suspected COVID-19 patients without recommended equipment such as facial shields. "And it will be too late".

Indian Railways - one of the world's biggest networks and carrying more than 20 million passengers daily - has cancelled all services except suburban and goods trains.

The PM had first officially addressed the nation on Thursday, briefing citizens about the pandemic and measures that they could take to prevent the spread of the outbreak in the country.

"In one small room, three generations are living", Joseph said.

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