- Forget about leaving home in next 21 days, PM Modi said
- 21-day lockdown only way to ensure everyone is safe, he said
- Social distancing is for every citizen, including prime minister, he said
India's 1.3 billion people will go under "total lockdown" from today for three weeks to fight the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday. "From midnight, the entire country will be in lockdown, total lockdown. To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family... every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown," he declared.
"Forget about leaving home in the next 21 days... If you cross the Lakshman Rekha, you will invite the virus home," PM Modi said in his second address to the nation in a week.
"21 days' lockdown may seem to be a long time, but this is the only way to ensure everyone is safe. If we don't handle these 21 days well, then our country, your family will go backwards by 21 years," the PM said, folding his hands several times during his half-hour speech.
There is "absolutely no need to panic", centre and states are working to ensure that essential supplies are not disrupted, he said, adding that his government had set aside Rs 15,000 crore to strengthen the health infrastructure to tackle coronavirus.
India, said PM Modi, was at a critical stage where even a single misstep could lead to the deadly virus spreading like wildfire.
"Some think social distancing is only for patients. That's not correct. Social distancing is the only way to fight the virus. It is for every citizen, every family, every member, even for the Prime Minister."
India has more than 500 coronavirus cases. 10 people have died. Experts worry that without stringent measures like social distancing and quarantine, the virus will take on frightening proportions the world's second most populous nation.
Several lockdown measures has been brought in by states -- including sealing borders and restricting movement to only essential services -- to try and prevent an explosion of cases that could overwhelm the country's fragile public health system.
Flights, trains and metros have been stopped.
"Experts say if a person is infected today, it takes many days for them to display symptoms, they unknowingly infect all who come in contact with them in this period. A single infected person can infect hundreds in weeks, it spreads like fire," the Prime Minister said.
Referring to a World Health Organisation report, he pointed out that COVID-19 took 67 days to spread to one lakh people. To reach two lakh people, it took 11 days. But it took only four days to reach another lakh, taking the total spread to three lakhs.
Today's action would decide how much India could stop the spread of the pandemic, he said, and went on share a social media post. "Those who are inside their homes are informing people with the new innovative ideas. I am sharing the banner which I liked. Corona means 'Koi road par na nikle," PM Modi said.