$2 billion health shield for India as it battles coronavirus in total lockdown

25, Mar. 2020

By Atul Ranjan

NEW DELHI, NNA - Stay-at-home orders have been issued as India started clamping the nation in a 'total lockdown' at midnight for the next 21 days as it fights a seemingly uphill battle to contain the spread of coronavirus infections throughout the country.

In a televised address to the nation of 1.3 billion people at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the ban on people stepping out of their homes for the next three weeks.

People watch the live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on the coronavirus pandemic in the northern Indian city of Prayagraj on March 24, 2020. (PTI)
People watch the live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on the coronavirus pandemic in the northern Indian city of Prayagraj on March 24, 2020. (PTI)

He warned that if the outbreak is not brought under control during the shutdown, the country could go backwards by 21 years and that affected families would be devastated forever.

The tougher measures came after the second most populous country on earth saw a sharp increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases spreading to many states.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the country recorded a total of 568 cases including nine deaths as of Tuesday evening.

The country has already suspended all domestic flights and passenger train services.

The dire situation has forced Asia's third largest economy to "pay an economic cost because of this lockdown," said Modi. But it was necessary as saving "the life of each and every Indian is our top most priority,” he stressed.

It was his second televised address to the nation in less than a week on the deadly threat of the pandemic that has accelerated and wreaked havoc throughout the world.

Expecting coronavirus cases to go up, the prime minister also announced that $2 billion has been allocated to boost medical infrastructure and treatment.

He pointed out that even countries with the best medical facilities have found it extremely difficult to cope with a health crisis of unprecedented proportions.

He said,“All of you are also witnessing how the most advanced countries of the world have been rendered absolutely helpless by this pandemic. It is not that these countries are not putting in adequate efforts or they lack resources. The coronavirus is spreading at such a rapid pace that despite all the preparations and efforts, these countries are finding it hard to manage the crisis.”

India has heeded the advice of health experts who observed that the only effective way to curb the spread of the contagious virus is social distancing, he said.

To ensure that local supplies of necessary medical equipment and other materials would be adequate, the country on Tuesday prohibited the export of all ventilators such as artificial respiratory apparatus as well as sanitizers.

Empty shelves at a grocery store in the northern Indian city of Gurugram on March 24, 2020. (NNA)
Empty shelves at a grocery store in the northern Indian city of Gurugram on March 24, 2020. (NNA)

News of the lockdown Tuesday night triggered panic-buying across India as people rushed to grocery stores to grab food items despite the prime minister's assurance that there would be a continual supply of essential items.

“We are fast running out of stocks,” a grocery shop owner told NNA.

As people converged on stores in capital Delhi and other cities, Modi sent out a tweet warning the danger of the virus spreading in crowded places.

“No panic buying please. Please stay indoors. I repeat - centre and state governments will ensure all essentials are available,” he tweeted.