Covid-19: India under ‘House Arrest’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 24, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressesing the nation on Tuesday   -  PTI

PM announces 21-day nation-wide lockdown; earmarks Rs 15,000 crore for health facilities

In what could be the largest exercise of its kind in the world, India will be completely locked down for the next 21 days to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Simultaneously, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced spending ₹15,000 crore to boost health facilities in the country.

As at 6 pm of Tuesday, 568 confirmed coronavirus cases were recorded in India. While 40 patients have been cured, there have been nine fatalities. As many as 427 (75 per cent) of these cases have been recorded in 12 States, with Kerala (87) and Maharashtra (86) the worst affected. The other cases were reported from Karnataka (37), Gujarat (32), Uttar Pradesh (32), Rajasthan (30), Delhi (29), Punjab (29), Telengana (25), Haryana (14), Tamil Nadu (13) and Ladakh (13).

The nationwide lockdown will come into effect at 0000 hours on Wednesday, and continue till April 14. “If we don’t handle these 21 days well, then our country, your family will go backwards by 21 years,” Modi said in his second address to nation on Covid-19. Last week, in an address to the nation, he had hinted about a long shutdown. Modi acknowledged that the decision will have an economic cost but said saving people’s lives is paramount to his government.

There will be complete bar on people from stepping outside their homes, he said and even folded his hands to emphasise his request to citizens to adhere to the call. Experts and the experience of countries fighting the deadly virus make it clear that social distancing is the only way to combat the disease, he asserted.

“I have full faith that we will emerge victorious from this challenge,” he said, while asking people to take care of themselves and their families. He also assured people that all steps are being taken by the Centre and the States to ensure supply of essential items.


States to identify hospitals

Earlier in the day, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba asked State governments to immediately identify and earmark hospitals to deal with the coronavirus. In a letter to State Chief Secretaries, Gauba also said that it is absolutely essential that surveillance and contact tracing of all positive cases are taken up so that no suspected or high-risk person is left out.

“All States should immediately identify and earmark hospitals dedicated for management of Covid-19 cases and ensure that they are in a state of full readiness to deal with the situation in the event of a further spike in the number of confirmed cases,” he said.

Post his speech, Modi said in a tweet that “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.”

Simultaneously, the Home Ministry, in a detailed set of guidelines, said that shops, including ration shops (under PDS) dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booth, meat and fish and animal fodder will remain open. However, district authorities may encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimise movement of individuals outside their home. Delivery of all essential goods, including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, through e-commerce will be allowed. Banks and ATMs will be functional.

Opposition disappointed

The Opposition said the Prime Minister's announcement lacked clarity and vision. Congress’ chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said the country will accept the suggestion for a complete lockdown. “But what did you do to check the spread of the virus? How will you protect health professionals? How will you deal with the issue of poverty that would follow the disease? How will poor people, farmers, traders and workers make their living for 21 days?" he asked. The CPI(M) said it is disappointing that no concrete measures have been announced so far to provide relief to the poor and the needy, and to alleviate the suffering of those who need urgent help at this moment to survive the lockdown.

Published on March 24, 2020

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