PM announces 21-day nationwide lockdown as coronavirus tightens grip

Tanya Simon
March 24, 2020

India is the world's second most populous country and the fifth biggest economy, but so far, it has appeared to avoid the full hit of the pandemic.

"If we don't handle these 21 days well, then our country, your family will go backwards by 21 years", he said.

"What the experts are saying is that social distancing is the only option to combat coronavirus".

This is the only ray of light, he asserted. "Every state, every union territory, every district, every village and every locality is being put under a lockdown".

He said he understands the economic toll that this lockdown will take on the country but that saving the lives of "each and every Indian" is his first priority.

A lockdown in most of the country was already in place till March 31, and Modi's announcement extended it everywhere and for two more weeks after this month.

The prime minister outlined details of India's response in a series of tweets published around the same time.

The Himalayan nation said thousands of people, majority Nepali migrant workers, had crossed into Nepal in recent days from India, believing their homeland to be safer. Click the link to subscribe.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa announced South Africa's 21-day lockdown on Monday as well.

According to the guidelines issued by the ministry of home affairs, shops dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish, and animal fodder will remain open.

This was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday evening.

Describing the situation in different countries due to the pandemic that has infected hundreds of thousands of people and killed over 16,000, the Indian premier said: "This virus has been spreading very fast across the world".

"The only way to protect us from Coronavirus is not to cross the "Lakshman Rekha" of our homes", said the PM.

In his last address on 19 March, the prime minister had advocated for a "Janata Curfew" on 22 March.

Economists had also hoped Modi would announce some welfare and relief measures for the poor - a package has reportedly been in the works for a week now - but other than expressing his concern for their plight the prime minister's speech contained no concrete measures.

But with global disruptions to supply chains and countries worldwide racing to secure medical supplies in the pandemic, experts said India is facing crucial shortages of ventilators, testing kits, and masks, gowns and other protective equipment for health workers.

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