New Delhi, Mar 24: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday announced a complete lockdown across the country for three weeks starting from midnight Tuesday to stave off the menace of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). “In the view of the current situation, the nationwide complete lockdown will be in place for 21 days,” the Prime Minister declared in his second address to the nation in a week.
“If we are not able to manage the upcoming 21 days, we will be pushed back by 21 years,” PM Modi warned, adding that “this is applicable for everyone, including the Prime Minister.” He said there will be a complete bar on people from stepping outside their homes and made a fervent appeal to the countrymen not to cross the ‘lakshman rekha’ of their homes in the next three weeks.
His second address comes as India has witnessed a spurt in the number of COVID-19 cases in the past few days. As per the latest briefing by the Health Ministry, the total number of cases has crossed 500, including 39 who have recovered and nine deaths.
Welcoming the move, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the list of essential services will remain unchanged since the March 22nd ‘Janata Curfew’. “As we move towards a 21-day coronavirus lockdown, PM Narendra Modi has ensured that all essential services shall continue and remain functional. Please spread the message that the list of essential services remains unchanged since the March 22nd ‘Janta Curfew’,” Vardhan tweeted.
Later, PM Modi tweeted that there was no need to panic and that essential commodities, including medicines, would be available. “Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this,” he said in his tweet.
In his address, PM Modi also emphasised the importance of social distancing in tackling COVID-19. “Social distancing is the only option to stay safe and to stop the coronavirus — stay at a distance from each other and stay inside your houses,” he said.
This lockdown, the Prime Minister said, is in a way a curfew and would be more stringent than Janta Curfew. “We may have to pay a financial cost for this lockdown but it is important for the safety of people.”
Underlining that health services should be the only priority of state governments at this time, PM Modi said the Centre has made a provision of Rs 15,000 crore to strengthen the country’s health infrastructure to tackle coronavirus. He informed that the availability of testing facilities related to COVID-19, personal protective equipment, isolation beds, ICU beds, ventilators and other necessary tools are being increased rapidly.
The Prime Minister also asked the public to think about the frontline healthcare workers who are fighting tirelessly against the virus.
“Lockdown of 21 days is a long time, but this is important for you and your family’s safety,” he continued. “I believe that every Indian will not only successfully tackle this challenge but also emerge victorious in this time of crisis.”
Until now, the government had shut down domestic commercial aviation, stopping all flights from Tuesday midnight till March 31 with an aim to arrest the spread of the virus. About 30 states and Union territories have now announced a complete lockdown in 548 districts, while in 58 districts of three states, the curbs are partial.
In his previous address, PM Modi had cautioned against complacency on the pandemic while asking people to observe a self-imposed curfew on March 22 by not stepping out of homes between 7 am and 9 pm. He had exhorted people to thank doctors and providers of other essential services by ringing bells, clapping or other means.
He had also announced that an Economic Response Task Force under the leadership of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman would decide on a relief package, based on regular interactions and feedback from all stakeholders and an analysis of all situations and dimensions.
From the industry sector to media houses, the Prime Minister has been conducting a series of video conference interactions with various stakeholders on tackling the virus.