India in nationwide lockdown, grounds domestic flights as Covid-19 cases rise

24, Mar. 2020

A medic staff member receives disinfectant spray from a colleague outside a hospital, before the lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata on March 23, 2020. (PTI)
A medic staff member receives disinfectant spray from a colleague outside a hospital, before the lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata on March 23, 2020. (PTI)

NEW DELHI, NNA - Alarmed at the spike in Covid-19 infections across India, the country on Monday imposed a complete lockdown in 30 of its 36 states and union territories till the end of the month to curtail the spread of the deadly virus.

The densely populated South Asian country also suspended all domestic flights from midnight Tuesday for an indefinite period. It had already barred incoming international flights from Mar. 22 to 29.

Passenger train services have also been suspended till Mar. 31.

All offices and businesses would be shut except those offering essential services such as grocery stores, banks, gas stations, hospitals and pharmacies during the shutdown till March 31.

The country recorded a total of 538 Covid-19 positive cases in 23 states and union territories as of Tuesday morning, according to the country's ministry of health and family welfare.

The nationwide shutdown came after millions heeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to people to self-isolate for a day on Sunday to help contain the spread of the disease which had become a global pandemic.

The country’s ministry of civil aviation said the domestic flight restrictions will not apply to cargo flights. Goods trains will continue operating too.

Meanwhile, to deal with the economic challenges caused by the pandemic, prime minister Modi had recently announced the creation of a task force to recommend policies to mitigate its impact.

Modi has also urged India’s business community and the wealthy to look after the welfare of people in the lower income group, urging them not to cut their pay during the lockdown.

The prime minister also held a video conference with leaders of the pharmaceutical sector representatives on March 21, asking them to maintain regular supplies of medicine and medical equipment.

“In his interaction the prime minister asked the pharma industry to work on manufacture of RNA testing kits for COVID-19 on war footing. He also directed them that it is important to maintain supply of essential medicines and prevent black marketing and hoarding,” said a statement from the government's Press Information Bureau.