National capital Delhi was placed under lockdown today till March 31 - part of the imposition of nationwide restrictions to battle the highly contagious coronavirus, which has killed over 11,000 globally and infected nearly 350 people in the country. Delhi has shut public transport, sealed its borders and closed shops, allowing in only the essential items. The Delhi Metro has already announced that it will stop services till Mach 31 and the Delhi Police have imposed prohibitory orders across the city, banning gatherings of more than four people.
The aviation regulator, DGCA, meanwhile, countered Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's announcement suspending flights from the Delhi airport, saying domestic flights in and out of Delhi were not banned.
"For preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 outbreak, directions have been issued for lockdown in the whole territorial jurisdiction of the National Capital Territory of Delhi from 6 am on Monday to March 31," Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal announced this evening at a press conference, sharing stage with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
"Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures," Chief Minister Kejriwal said. "We have been fortunate. in our country, the virus came late. We had the advantage of watching and learning from the experiences of Italy and China. But if we still cannot take the right step at the right time, we would never forgive ourselves,' he added.
The essential services that would remain open includes shops selling grocery, fruit and vegetables, milk, cooking gas supplies, telecom services, home-delivery of food, banks and ATMs, hospitals and pharmacies and 25 per cent buses of the Delhi Transport Corporation. Only people working for essential services will be allowed to use private transport.
Delhi currently has 27 patients of coronavirus. Of them, only six have contracted the virus here from others, which is fortunate because it shows that the virus has not penetrated the local population much, the Chief Minister said.
But what medical experts have called "breaking the chain" - stopping transmission by practising rigorous social distancing by getting people to stay at home - has proved especially challenging.
Over the last few days, around 20 people who were coronavirus positive, have boarded trains and flights, defying quarantine rules and putting at risk dozens of co-passengers and crew.
For the economically weaker sections - daily wage labourers and small traders -- what makes it harder to stay home is the loss of income. To ease the hardship, the Delhi government is providing free meals at the community centres, Mr Kejriwal said.
His tweet read: "We are providing 72 lakh people free ration, doubling pensions. In addition to this, I urge all employers to provide paid leave, incl to domestic helps. Not only is this a compassionate gesture, it is essential for our economy to survive".
Today Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for a 14-hour "Janata curfew", an experience that he said would prove beneficial "in the coming days".