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Indian PM Modi announces 21-day lockdown to fight COVID-19

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-03-24 23:02
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Photo taken on March 24, 2020 shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing people on television in New Delhi, India. [Photo/Xinhua]

NEW DELHI - In a bid to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a "countrywide lockdown" for 21 days, beginning Tuesday at 2400 hours.

He urged upon his countrymen to stay inside their homes and not take the risk of venturing out.

"Coronavirus spreads very fast. If we don't take it seriously now, it can pose a serious threat in the near future to our country. If we don't follow countrywide lockdown for the next 21 days, our country can be gripped by Coronavirus and pushed back by 21 years," warned Modi in a televised address to the nation.

This was PM Modi's second address to countrymen in less than a week. Earlier, he had addressed the nation on March 19.

"Isolation is the only way to break the Coronavirus Cycle, and protect against it. Social distancing is must," said Modi, and added that people in some countries which were in the grip of Coronavirus strictly followed the directions from their respective government and stayed inside their homes. "And, hence those countries were able to check the virus spread," added the prime minister.

"This is the hour of patience and strong resolve. I appeal with folded hands to all the countrymen that while staying at home please pray for those who are putting their lives at risk, like medical staff, day and night," said Modi.

The prime minister, however, assured that there would be no dearth of essential supplies across the country during the period of lockdown. He also announced a financial package of 15,000 crore Indian Rupees (around 2.1 billion U.S. dollars) for upgrading health services and training more medical staff to meet the challenge posed by the virus.

He also appealed to the people not to take any medication without consulting medical practitioners.

According to the country's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as of Tuesday there were a total of 519 COVID-19 cases in India, including 476 Indians and 43 foreign nationals. As many as 40 cases were successfully cured.

Ten persons have died of the disease so far, with one reported on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had a telephonic conversation with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, where the latter offered to share China's experiences in curbing COVID-19.

"Wang Yi expressed sympathy and solidarity with India in fight against COVID-19. China is ready to share our experience, provide assistance within our capacity and open its channel for procurement to India," tweeted Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, many states continued to impose a lockdown, restricting people's movement on roads. According to media reports, those found venturing out of their homes unnecessarily were arrested and fined.

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