Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day nation-wide lock down urging citizens with folded hands to follow the directives to prevent further spread of Covid-19.
The prime minister announced the unprecedented decision in a televised address to the nation – his second within a week – warning the citizens that any let up on their part could set the nation back by up to 21 years.
“This lock down is for every citizen – from the Prime Minister to the common man,” Modi said adding that the Centre and the states were working in tandem to ensure supply of essential items during this period.
The Prime Minister also announced that Centre and the state governments have set aside Rs 15000 crore to strengthen health infrastructure across the country. “This will be spent on testing centres, PPE, ventilators and other equipment. Private sector and private labs have also joined the fight,” he said.
“India is at a critical stage and even a single misstep could lead to the deadly virus spreading like wildfire and put the entire nation in jeopardy. If we continue to be negligent, India will have to pay a heavy price,” Modi said in a 30-minute address to the nation.
Modi said the nation will have to pay a very heavy economic price due to this lockdown, but it was necessary to save the nation from the pandemic.
“Even the most prosperous countries have been made helpless by this pandemic. It is not like they do not have the resources or they are not trying, but the virus is such that these efforts are not enough,” he said.
Within minutes of the Prime Minister’s address, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order invoking powers under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
“This order will remain in force in all parts of the country for a period of 21 days with effect from 25.03.2020,” the order issued by Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba said.
Highlighting the seriousness of the situation, the prime minister said while the virus took 67 days to infect one lakh people across the world, it infected another lakh within the next 11 days. “The number of infected people rose to three lakh within the next four days,” Modi said.
“The only way to stop the spread of Covid-19 is follow the example of the countries who dealt with it and are now coming back on the track,” he said.
“Only those countries whose people followed the government orders, did not go out of their homes are coming out of it,” he said.
Any negligence in these 21 days will "push the country and your families by 21 years", he said underlining the massive danger the 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 today," 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.
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.
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.
(With inputs from PTI)