As the death toll from COVID-19 touched nine on Monday, the government announced a slew of measures, including the suspension of all domestic flight operations until the end of March, to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Thirty States and Union Territories moved to a complete lockdown mode, and governments warned of strict punitive action against those who violate preventive measures.
COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India
The number of cases confirmed by the Union Health Ministry rose to 471. Data from the States put the total number of cases at 476, with 443 active cases.
West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh reported their first fatalities.
In view of the continuing spread of the virus, Parliament curtailed its session and adjourned sine die after passing the Finance Bill.
650 aircraft grounded
The Ministry of Civil Aviation ordered the shutting down of all domestic flight operations hours after an announcement was made by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal suspending all incoming flights to the capital.
The new restriction will be effective from Tuesday midnight, a day after the ban on international flights came into effect.
A total of 650 aircraft operated by various Indian airlines will now be grounded across airports. The Centre's move comes after several States, including West Bengal and Bihar, requested a ban on flights.
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Kerala and Maharashtra, which are facing the brunt of the crisis, with 95 and 97 cases respectively, announced more sweeping measures.
Following 28 new cases on Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said shops, offices and establishments barring essential services will be closed. Camps will be prepared for migrant labourers, who will be provided food and given medical examinations, as economic activities come to a complete halt in the State.
Announcing a State-wide curfew, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said: “People are not listening and they were stepping out as if the virus threat had diminished. However, that is not the case. I am forced to say this because there are still those who have not understood the seriousness of what we face.”
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again urged people to take the lockdown seriously.
“Please save yourself by doing this, save your family, follow the instructions seriously. I request the State governments to get the rules and laws followed,” Mr. Modi tweeted the morning after his call for a public appreciation of frontline responders to the crisis turned into mob revelry in many places.
As economic anxieties continue to mount alongside the health scare, Mr. Modi held a conference call with industry leaders. The Prime Minister tweeted that the government was “working to ensure economic stability,” in consultation with all the concerned stakeholders. “Unless very very important, please do #StayHome...” the PM said, adding that he called upon industry leaders to continue following work from home as far as possible.
The government and industry were “conscious about informal sector’s well-being,” Mr. Modi tweeted. “We had extensive interactions on sectors like banking, finance, hospitality, tourism and infra. Industry leaders highlighted steps towards maintaining supply lines of essential items and medical equipment.”
"There will be massive economic pain. But it is possible to handle the economic consequences than the loss of numerous lives,” Congress leader and former finance minister P. Chidambaram said. He requested Chief Ministers to go on TV and explain the rationale behind the lockdown.
As West Bengal reported its first COVID-19 death, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee requested State BJP leaders to take up the need for more testing kits in the State with the Centre. She urged political parties to keep aside their differences and join hands in combating the outbreak.
Ms. Banerjee also urged people to follow the guidelines set by the government during the lockdown and not to come out of their homes.
(With PTI inputs)