India shuts down tonight to debug itself of coronavirus. Will reboot after 21 days

Get, set, sanitise.
Get, set, sanitise.
Image: REUTERS/Prashant Waydande
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India’s prime minister Narendra Modi today (March 24) announced a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days.

Emphasising on the need of the lockdown, Modi, in a televised address, said these three weeks will be critical for the country.

“This lockdown will be strictly imposed in every corner of the country. We will be pushed back 21 years if you don’t comply with lockdown orders,” he warned citizens. “Forget what it is like stepping out of the house for 21 days. Stay at home and only stay at home.”

Invoking the examples of other coronavirus-hit countries like Italy and Iran, he warned that India isn’t immune to the global pandemic if citizens defy social distancing. “People in countries like the USA have adhered strictly to the quarantine guidelines laid down by the government, which is how they are restricting the spread of Covid-19,” he said while explaining the importance of isolation.

Modi also assured the nation that India is doing everything in its capacity to prevent the spread of the contagion.

The Indian prime minister also allocated Rs15,000 crore ($1.96 billion) towards acquiring medical equipment and protective gear, and training of medical and paramedical staff.

“I have appealed to state governments to make public health care the highest priority right now. I am also sure that private companies will also join in the efforts to curb the infection,” he said.

This is the second time in a week that the Indian prime minister has appeared on national television in the wake of the pandemic. As of now, India has over 500 reported cases of Covid-19.

On March 19, Modi had called for a day-long, self-imposed curfew on March 22.

Extra caution

Modi’s address comes a day after the World Health Organization said India’s role in dealing with the pandemic will decide the world’s future.

The central government has taken several steps to contain the virus, including stoppage of all incoming passenger traffic on 107 immigration check posts at all airports, seaports, land ports, rail ports, and river ports.

Earlier today, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced some relief measures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, including extending the last date to file tax returns for the financial year 2019 to June 30. Banks’ minimum balance norms and cash withdrawal fees from ATMs, too, have been waived off.