At the stroke of the midnight hour, when most of South Asia is asleep, India will begin its 21 days of lockdown – an essential move to thwart the spread of coronavirus amongst its estimated 1.3 billion residents.
“21 day lockdown seems like a long time, but it is very important for our own safety. It is the only cure we really have. I am certain that every citizen will not only face this crisis together, but also emerge out of it succcessfully”, Modi said in his address.
Modi was due to address the nation for a second time in a week later on Tuesday on the risks to the country of 1.3 billion people from the virus that emerged in China late last year and has spread to 194 countries.
Health researchers have warned that more than a million people in India could be infected with the coronavirus by mid-May, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to shut down all air and train travel, businesses and schools.
India has found 482 cases of the coronavirus and nine people have died from the COVID-19 disease it causes but alarm is growing across the region about prospects for its spread into impoverished communities and the ability of resource-starved public health sectors to cope.
Already health officials said the virus was spreading out of big Indian cities where it first appeared into the small towns that dot the landscape.
More than 400,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus globally and 17,451 have died, according to reports.
Across South Asia, home to a quarter of the world’s population, authorities are scrambling to raise their defences as the virus spreads.