Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered that every one of the country’s 1.3 billion residents will be barred from going outside for 21 days commencing at midnight.
It is the most extensive stay-at-home order passed yet in the world’s fight against the pandemic and puts almost a fifth of the planet’s population into confinement.
Mr Modi said in a televised address on Tuesday night:
‘To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes.’
He warned that if the county failed to manage the next 21 days, it would be set back 21 years. Indian health officials have so far reported 469 active cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 10 deaths.
Officials have repeatedly insisted there is no evidence yet of communal spread, but have conducted relatively scant testing for the disease.
In recent days, India has been gradually expanding restriction orders and has banned international and domestic flights and suspended passenger service on its extensive rail system. Essential service providers, including hospitals, police and media had been exempted from the curfew, and many grocery stores and pharmacies remained open.
Mr Modi called Tuesday’s order a ‘total lockdown’ and did not address whether any service providers would be exempt, but said ‘all steps have been taken by central and state government to ensure supply of essential items’.