New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days asserting that social distancing is the only way out for the country in its decisive battle against the coronavirus.
In his second address to the nation on the pandemic raging across much of the world with the number of infections rising in India, Modi made a fervent appeal to the countrymen not to cross the 'lakshman rekha' of their homes for the next three weeks.
Any negligence in these 21 days will "push the country and your families by 21 years", he said underlining the massive danger that coronavirus poses.
The experience of countries, which have been able to contain the virus to some extent and experts' views have made it clear that social distancing caused by a lockdown is the only way to break the cycle of the infection, he said.
This is the only ray of light, he asserted.
"To save India, to save every Indian, there will be a complete ban on people from stepping outside their houses from 12 midnight on Tuesday," he said.
"Lockdown is being imposed on every state, union territory, district, village, mohalla and street," he added.
The lockdown will be like "curfew" and more stringent than the 'janata curfew', which the country had observed on Sunday, he said, adding it will have an economic cost but saving people's lives is of the paramount interest to his government.
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. All transport services -- road, rail and air -- are to remain suspended during the lockdown period.
Modi folded his hands a few times to emphasise his request to citizens to adhere to his call, saying it is applicable to everyone from the prime minister to a citizen in a village.
Modi said he had requested all state government to ensure that health services should take first priority. Centre has made allocation of Rs 15,000 crore to strengthen health infrastructure to tackle the coronavirus.
Even countries like Italy, France and the US with world class infrastructure have been left helpless due to the spread of the disease despite their relentless efforts, he said, emphasising the gravity of the situation.
Some people suffer from this wrong mindset that only infected persons need to follow social distancing, he said, warning that such a view can endanger lives of others and their families.
"I have full faith that we will emerge victorious from this challenge", Modi said, and urged people to take care of themselves and their family and cautioned them against rumours and superstitions. Steps are also being taken by central and state government to ensure the supply of essential items, Modi added.
Modi also thanked the services of everyone who are putting their lives at risk to care for the sick. "Remember the doctors, nurses, paramedics, pathologists who are working day and night to save lives, hospital administrators, ambulance drivers, ward boys, serving us in these tough times," Modi said.
National Disaster Management Act invoked in India
In wake of the rising threat posed by COVID-19, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Tuesday invoked the Disaster Management Act in India to pave way for state governments to activate effective measures to tackle the virus. The Act, which bestow the states power to enforce directives as issued, shall remain in act for the during of the lockdown imposed for 21 days by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to Health Ministry, over 500 coronavirus cases have been reported in India so far.
Nearly 3,80,000 people across the world have been infected and over 16,000 people have been killed by the virus, which originated in China.
Figures show that it took over two months or 67 days for the novel coronavirus to infect the first 1,00,000 people. However, according to WHO, it only took 11 days for reach 2,00,000 cases and an alarming 4 to infect the third 1,00,000 people. US has become the new epicentre of the virus, WHO confirms.