As the death toll from COVID-19 rose to 12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown for the entire country, stating that it was the only way to break the chain of infection. The lockdown will be in effect till April 14.
COVID-19 has claimed 12 lives in the country with authorities reporting one death each in Delhi, the second in the national capital, and in Maharashtra on Tuesday, and in Tamil Nadu early Wednesday. Over 500 persons were afflicted by the viral infection. Fears are also mounting that more could be hit as the global coronavirus toll inches towards 17,000.
In a nationwide television broadcast, Mr. Modi said the pandemic was a huge challenge to every country and even countries like the U.S. and Italy, considered to have good health infrastructure, were struggling to control the situation.
“In such a situation we have learnt from the experience of the countries that have managed to get some control over the surge in cases, and these show that a lockdown for a sustained period of time is the only way to break the chain of infection,” he said.
India on Tuesday recorded 564 positive cases, with the number of positive patients in Kerala and Maharahstra crossing 100.
Stating that it was the priority of both the Centre and the State governments to set up health infrastructure as fast as possible to deal with the pandemic, Mr. Modi said the government had allotted ₹15,000 crore for the purchase of personal protection equipment for healthcare workers, setting up testing laboratories and quarantine centres.
“Draw a Laxman Rekha outside your house door and do not step outside of it. Stay where you are. This will be the decisive battle against coronavirus,” he said.
Sounding a note of caution, he said: “If we are not able to adhere to this lockdown sincerely for 21 days, believe me, India will go back 21 years.”
“Several families will be destroyed. India is at a stage of the pandemic where our actions will decide our future,” he said.
“While at home you must think of those endangering their lives to combat this pandemic — medical care workers, doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, ambulance drivers who are facing the challenge of treating the disease,” the Prime Minister said.
“Pray for the sanitation workers cleaning up our neighbourhoods to keep you safe, please think of the media personnel who are braving infection to keep you informed, of policemen enforcing the law while facing, in some cases, your anger,” he added.
Mr, Modi quoted figures on the spread of the pandemic to stress his point. “It took 67 days for the first 100,000 cases to come up, the next 100,000 came up in just 11 days, and it took only four days for the next 100,000 cases to appear,” he said.
“The rate of infection of the Corona virus is very fast and the only way to break the chain of infection is social distancing, staying indoors. This applies to every citizen of the country including the Prime Minister,” he said.
He acknowledged that the challenge would be particularly hard for the poor and said that alongside the government, civil society organisations should also step up to mitigate some of the hardships.
“We have to prioritise what is required for saving lives. 21 days of lockdown is a long time but for the safety of your family this is the only way that we have. I am confident that every Indian will not only combat this difficult situation but will emerge victorious,” he said.