Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his second national address in a week, has announced a nationwide lockdown, starting midnight today. The move, which was long-due, was announced as the number of cases across India continued to rise exponentially. India has recorded 515 infections so far with 9 fatalities and 40 recoveries.
The total lockdown will be in place for 21 days, meaning all activities across the country will be suspended. Only essential services will be allowed to operate. The move comes after a number of states had already imposed state-wide lockdowns to check the community transmission of the virus. Up until now, most of the cases have had a travel history of abroad. But, cases with no such history have also started to surface now, as such, the lockdown comes just in time.
PM Modi, in his address, stressed that the only way forward was to maintain social distancing. With folded hands, the PM requested the countrymen to be compassionate towards the medical personnel who are at the forefront of this fight and judiciously follow the social distancing so that the load on the medical setup is reduced. He also talked about the measures the government is taking to cater to the expected surge in cases, like increased capacity for hospitals along with proper equipment for medical personnel, something that has been complained about a lot.
The government has also cleared the way for private testing as well, issuing licenses to 16 private lab chains to conduct tests for COVID-19 across the country. Recently, a Pune based molecular diagnostics company MyLabs had announced it had developed a COVID-19 testing kit and has already received government clearance for what would be the first “made in India” testing kit. The kit reduces the time of testing from 4 hours to 2.5 hours
Modi also said that the essential supplies are in abundance and requested the public to not hoard on supplies. He repeatedly stressed staying indoors in a tone, that implied strict measures are in place for those who venture out. He also announced a package of 15,000 Crores (~$2Bn) to be infused into the medical set up across the country as India gears for “stage 3” of the COVID-19 spread.