NEW DELHI, March 25 (Bernama) — India announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days from Tuesday midnight to contain the spread of coronavirus as the Covid-19 disease cases crossed 500.
Police will enforce a strict curfew across the country and only essential services will function during the lockdown period.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address said the harsh measures are needed to stop the contagion.
He said even affluent countries are finding it difficult to tackle the pandemic and Indians must take the threat seriously to avoid a major disaster.
“If we are not able to manage this pandemic in the next 21 days, the country and your family will be set back by 21 years,” Modi said.
Allaying concerns over the availability and distribution of essential goods, Modi asked people not to indulge in “panic buying” and stay indoors.
He promised that federal and state governments “will ensure all essentials are available.”
Vital sectors such as healthcare, public utilities, production and distribution of essential items, media, banks, telecommunications, and basic transport services have been exempted from the lockdown.
All community gatherings and religious congregations have been prohibited.
“Social distancing is the only option,” Modi said.
International and domestic passenger flights have been shut down along with hospitality services.
India tested about 20,000 individuals for the virus and 519 cases were found positive until Tuesday.