In­dia’s PM or­ders 21-day lock­down

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - EMILY SCH­MALL AND SHEIKH SAALIQ

NEW DELHI—In­dia will be­gin the world’s largest lock­down on Wed­nes­day, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi an­nounced in a TV ad­dress, warn­ing cit­i­zens to stay in­side or risk invit­ing the pan­demic into their homes, and pledg­ing $2 bil­lion (U.S.) to bol­ster the coun­try’s be­lea­guered health care sys­tem.

“To save In­dia and ev­ery In­dian, there will be a to­tal ban on ven­tur­ing out,” Modi said Tues­day night, ac­knowl­edg­ing that the 21-day lock­down would be a ma­jor blow to the econ­omy, but in­sist­ing that the al­ter­na­tive could set the coun­try back 21 years.

The move puts nearly one­fifth of the world’s pop­u­la­tion un­der lock­down.

The an­nounce­ment set off panic in many neigh­bour­hoods as peo­ple rushed to mar­kets to stock up on sup­plies. At many places, po­lice tried to dis­perse crowds out­side stores.

In­dian health of­fi­cials have re­ported 469 ac­tive cases of COVID-19, the dis­ease caused by the virus, and 10 deaths. Of­fi­cials have re­peat­edly in­sisted there is no ev­i­dence yet of lo­cal­ized spread but have con­ducted rel­a­tively scant test­ing for the dis­ease. In a coun­try where tens of mil­lions live in dense ur­ban ar­eas with ir­reg­u­lar ac­cess to clean wa­ter, ex­perts have said lo­cal spread­ing is in­evitable.

Modi called Tues­day’s or­der a “to­tal lock­down” and did not ad­dress whether any ser­vice providers would be exempt, but said that “all steps have been taken by cen­tral and state gov­ern­ment to en­sure sup­ply of es­sen­tial items.”

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