Source: PTI (Press Trust of India)
Millions across India are staying in to counter the threat from the highly contagious COVID-19, a disease spread by the Novel Coronavirus, which has toppled economies and annihilated thousands across the world.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for the 14 hour “janata curfew” or self-imposed quarantine to break the chain of coronavirus infections, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) says spread through person-to-person contact and respiratory droplets.
“Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against COVID-19 menace. The steps we take now will help in the times to come,” he tweeted moments before the curfew came into effect.
The Prime Minister said in a 29-minute address to the nation: “There is no cure for this, so we need to remain healthy. We need to avoid crowds and stay home. Social distancing is critical. If you think you can roam around as usual and feel you will not be at risk, this is incorrect; you are endangering yourself and your family.”
He also asked the citizens to stand at their doors, windows and balconies at 5 pm and clap, clang utensils or ring bells in a show of support to those providing essential services while the entire country is on a self-quarantine mode.
A woman in Pune city and a man in the state of West Bengal -both without any history of foreign travel – tested positive for coronavirus, raising concerns about probable community transmission as COVID-19 cases in India climbed to 315 on Saturday.
Some parts of India have already enforced shutdowns. The state of Rajasthan has ordered a shutdown until March 31. Four cities in the state of Gujarat have introduced similar regulations until March 21.
India has blocked entry to citizens, flying from certain countries, including the UK and most European nations. It has also terminated most entry visas for people flying in from other countries.
Popular Indian monuments such as the 16th Century Red Fort in Delhi, have been shut to visitors to prevent large gatherings. The Taj Mahal, the country’s most iconic monument has also been closed along with around 140 other monuments and museums.
Except businesses and government establishments dealing in essential items and services, all others are to remain shut. Businesses have voluntarily announced they would follow the Prime Minister’s call for self-quarantine.
Transport will be affected across the country. No long-distance or suburban trains will run. Many airlines including IndiGo and GoAir have said they will either operate in minimum capacity or cancel all flights. No metro trains will run in Delhi, Bengaluru and other cities.
The travel sector has taken the biggest hit with booking cancellations.
The railways has asked people to postpone all journeys after 12 people who travelled this month were found to be infected with coronavirus. Lakhs of people use the railways everyday and the coaches are often full of people, which raises risks of probable spread of the virus.