Spitting in public places -- the one Indian habit that could not be dislodged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Clean India Movement -- got a firm thumbs down from him today as a key part of the battle against the coronavirus.
"We always knew that spitting in public places is wrong. Yet, it continued in places. Now is the best time to ensure we do not spit," PM Modi said today in his monthly radio address Mann ki Baat.
"This will increase basic hygiene and strengthen the fight against COVID-19," added the Prime Minister, who earlier warned that the highly contagious virus will bring about a permanent change in the way people live.
With respiratory droplets that emerge during coughing or sneezing being the main avenue of the transmission of the virus, spitting in public was a possible mode of transmission.
To eliminate this, the government has already banned the sale of smokeless tobacco. Earlier this month, the Union Health Ministry asked all states to prohibit the use and spitting of smokeless tobacco in public places.
"Chewing smokeless tobacco products, paan masala and areca nut (supari) increases the production of saliva followed by a very strong urge to spit. Spitting in public places could enhance the spread of the COVID-19 virus," the ministry said in a letter to chief secretaries of all states and union territories.
The Indian Council of Medical Research -- the country's nodal body in the fight against coronavirus -- has also appealed to people to get rid of the habit and stop consumption of smokeless tobacco.
"Spitting in public places could enhance the spread of the COVID19 virus," the ICMR said.
States like Odisha have made it a punishable offence. And recently in Mumbai, a person was even arrested for it, reports said.
The country has so far recorded 1,990 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours - its biggest single-day spike so far - taking the total to 26,496, Of this, 824 patients have died, data from the Union Health Ministry shows.
Thanking the people for their contribution to the battle against the virus, he said the "people driven" fight would be "be discussed in the future".