‘People’s curfew’ was only the start of a long battle, says PM
India’s population of more than 1.3 billion was asked to observe a “people’s curfew” yesterday to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus, and a lockdown of large swathes of the country was announced for next week. As confirmed cases of Covid-19 in India rose to 396 and the death toll reached seven, usually hectic city streets were deserted and most businesses closed from 7am to 9pm to comply with the voluntary curfew announced by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, last week.
“The curfew will end at 9pm but it doesn’t mean we should start celebrating,” Modi said. “It’s the beginning of a long battle. People shouldn’t come out of houses in states which have announced a lockdown. In the rest of the states, if it is not very important, don’t come out of your houses.”
As the curfew began, there were announcements of longer-term measures including the suspension of India’s railway system, which in normal times carries 23 million passengers a day.
The capital, Delhi, which has reported six cases of coronavirus passed by local transmission, announced a draconian lockdown beginning at 6am today. The city’s borders will be closed to all but food, water and fuel supplies, public transport will be shut, taxis and rickshaws will be kept off the roads and an order has been imposed preventing gatherings of more than four people. Homes of people instructed to go into quarantine have been marked with stickers in an effort to stop them going outside.
The number of coronavirus cases in India was up by 113 yesterday, the steepest increase in a single day.