A family watches Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation on a television set on a television at their home in Amritsar on March 24, 2020. India's 1.3 billion people will go under "total lockdown" from midnight on March 24 (1830 GMT) for 21 days to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. "From 12 midnight today, the entire country will be in lockdown, total lockdown," Modi said in a national television address to the world's second most-populous nation.
AFP/Narinder Nanu
India to go under total virus lockdown, says PM Modi
Bhuvan Bagga (Agence France-Presse) - March 25, 2020 - 8:39am

NEW DELHI, India — India's 1.3 billion people will go under "total lockdown" for 21 days to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday, sparking panic buying.

"From 12 midnight today (1830 GMT Tuesday), the entire country will be in lockdown, total lockdown," Modi said in a national television address to the world's second most-populous nation.

"To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family... every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown."

India has lagged behind other nations in the number of COVID-19 cases, but there has been a sharp increase in recent days to 519 infections, including 10 deaths, according to the government.

A raft of lockdown measures had already been brought in by individual states and territories — including sealing borders and restricting movement to only essential services — in a bid to prevent an explosion of cases that could overwhelm the fragile public health system.

Modi warned that Indians had to observe the lockdown if they wanted to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

"This is a curfew... We will have to pay economic cost of this, but to save every family member, this is the responsibility of everyone — the biggest priority," the prime minister added.

"If these 21 days are not managed, the country and your family will go back 21 years... I am not saying this as your prime minister, I am saying it as your fellow citizen, family member."

Under the order, people could face up to two years in jail and an unspecified financial penalty if they flout the rules.

'Don't panic'

Within minutes of Modi's speech announcing the world's largest lockdown, AFP reporters witnessed people rushing to stores to buy groceries.

In India's capital New Delhi, some people in their pyjamas ran towards nearby shops despite heavy rain to stock up, while in the financial capital Mumbai, long lines of masked people formed outside pharmacies and supermarkets.

In Ghaziabad, a city in India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, police patrolled streets and used loud megaphones to tell residents to stay indoors.

Following his speech, Modi tweeted: "THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO PANIC."

"Essential commodities, medicines etc. would be available. Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this," he added.

Local media reported that state leaders would announce the timings of when people could buy essential items.

"This lockdown is needed," virologist Shahid Jameel of biomedical research charity Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance told AFP after the announcement. "If this is not done now we would be looking at six to eight weeks later, with many more deaths."

"But it's going to be very hard on the poor and vulnerable. I hope there is a plan in place. The devil is always in the details," he added.

All social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural and religious gatherings would be banned, the order said. 

All transport services including air, rail and road, would be suspended. A maximum of 20 people would be allowed to attend a funeral.

People working in essential services such as hospitals, police and media were exempted from the stay-at-home order, authorities added.

E-commerce giant Amazon, which has a big presence in India, said in a statement on its website that it would only sell "high priority" products to customers. 

The South Asian nation has already banned incoming international flights, grounded domestic flights and shut sea and river ports.

Indian Railways — one of the world's biggest networks carrying more than 20 million passengers daily — has cancelled all services except suburban and goods trains.

The country was the hardest hit by the 1918 Spanish flu in terms of death, suffering 18 million fatalities or about six percent of the total population, according to a study by historians Niall Johnson and Jurgen Muller, published in 1998.

The epidemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, according to the same researchers. — with Aishwarya Kumar and Vishal Manve in Mumbai

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 4, 2020 - 4:09pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

April 4, 2020 - 4:09pm

The Department of Health reports 76 more local cases of the coronavirus disease 2019, bringing the official tally to 3,094 from the previous count of 3,018.

April 3, 2020 - 12:58pm

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. assures the public that they will shoulder the full cost of treatment for all COVID-19 patients until April 14, 2020.

"The reason for this accommodation window is due to the novelty and the wide range of severity of the disease in the country for which no existing case rate or package based on accepted protocols has yet been established," it says in a statement.

Philhealth says they will issue a new set of guidelines after the final protocol is established.

April 3, 2020 - 10:22am

The UN General Assembly has approved a resolution calling for "international cooperation" and "multilateralism" in the fight against COVID-19, in the first text to come out of the international body since the pandemic's outbreak.

The resolution, which was approved by consensus, also stresses "the need for full respect for human rights" and that "there is no place for any form of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in the response to the pandemic." — AFP

April 3, 2020 - 8:04am

The cruise ship Zaandam, which has dozens of ill passengers on board and was not allowed to dock in several South American countries, arrivsd Thursday in port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The liner was finally cleared for docking after long negotiations between Holland America Line, local and state officials, and the US Coast Guard, to ensure the safe disembarkation of the healthy — and the sick. — AFP

April 2, 2020 - 5:02pm

The Department of Health confirms 11 COVID-19 patients have died in the Philippines, raising the total number of fatalities to 107.

The Philippines also recorded 322 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national total to 2,633.

As of Thursday afternoon, one additional patient recovered from the deadly virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to 51.

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