India’s government on Thursday announced a one-day curfew for the 1.3-billion population and banned international flights to test the country’s ability to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on Indians in a nationwide address to observe a “Janata (civil) curfew” on Sunday from 7:00am to 9:00pm as he warned that the deadly virus could spread further.
“No-one should leave their homes, roam around the streets or in their neighbourhoods… This self-imposed curfew attempt will be a strong symbol to show self-restraint in the interest of the country,” he said.
As India imposes day-long curfew on Sunday (surely the first of many), I’m full of worry for my mother who will have to navigate the Covid-19 crisis on her own in Kolkata. Many of us have family members who are a continent away. How will we provide care across closed borders?
— Ananya Roy (@ananyaUCLA) March 19, 2020
The one-day effort will help “prepare us for future challenges,” he added.
The government says there have been 173 infections and four deaths but the public is increasingly anxious and there has been a rush on food stores and essential supplies.
Modi warned the public not to be complacent, pointing out that there had been an “explosion” in the number of cases worldwide.
“We are a developing country and we cannot say that it won’t impact India,” he said.
Most people, except those in essential services, will have to stay home for several weeks, he added, without giving a timeframe.
“If you feel you won’t be affected or infected, you are wrong,” Modi said.
“You will be endangering your family and the community and I request every citizen to stay home for the next few weeks.”
The 69-year-old called on Indians to thank medical personnel and other emergency providers by clapping for five minutes at 5:00pm on Sunday, and for employers not cut employees’ pay.
The 29-minute address came hours after the government said no international flights would be allowed to land in India for one week after 0000 GMT Saturday into Sunday at the port of departure.
States were also directed by the government to force companies to make staff work from home.
New Delhi has already suspended the visas of all foreign tourists and barred passengers of flights from the worst-hit European nations.
Travellers from several countries are also subject to a 14-day quarantine when they arrive in India.
Most schools and entertainment facilities, including cinemas, have already been shut across India, the world’s second-most populous country.
The Taj Mahal and other monuments have also been closed to visitors.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk