In his address to the nation Thursday on the coronavirus threat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioned against complacency on the pandemic while asking people to observe a self-imposed curfew on Sunday by not stepping out of homes between 7 am and 9 pm. He also reassured people against shortages, saying there was no need for hoarding.
In a nearly 30-minute telecast, he said the March 22 ‘Janata Curfew’ would be a test of people’s “self-discipline” in fighting the virus. The only exception to the curfew would be doctors, media and providers of other essential services, and the PM urged people to thank them for five minutes at 5 pm on March 22 by ringing bells, clapping or other means.
Taking note of the impact of COVID-19, he said an Economic Response Task Force under the leadership of the Finance Minister will decide on a relief package, based on regular interactions and feedback from all stakeholders and an analysis of all situations and dimensions.
Underscoring the threat of coronavirus, Modi said the world had never seen a crisis as grave as this. “Even World War I and II did not affect as many countries,” he said, asking people to avoid the mindset that the disease will not harm India when it has hit hard many developed countries.
Urging state governments to ensure compliance of the curfew on Sunday, Modi said, “22nd March will be the symbol of our effort, our self-restraint, our resolve to fulfil our duty in the service of the nation. The success of the people’s curfew, and the experience gained from it, will also prepare us for upcoming challenges… During this curfew, we shall neither leave our homes, nor get onto the streets and refrain from roaming about in our societies or areas.”
The PM said he wanted people to give him their “coming few weeks and your time”, and to show “resolve” and “restraint”. “The entire world is going through a phase of serious crisis… In these two months, 130 crore people of India have taken necessary precautions… Complacency in the face of this global pandemic is not correct… We have to take a resolve that we shall protect ourselves… Hum swasth to jag swasth (If we are healthy, the world will be healthy),” Modi said.
A cure or vaccine for coronavirus had not been found yet, the PM said, and the countries which had controlled the situation had done so by taking quick decisions and isolating more and more people.
He said all steps were being taken to prevent shortage of essential items, such as medicines, milk etc, and there was no need for hoarding. He also urged people to avoid routine check-ups and elective surgeries, so as to not burden health services. “You could get required guidance over the phone from your known doctor. In case you have a non-essential, elective surgery scheduled, postpone it by a month,” Modi said.
“Patience is an essential virtue in order to avoid this disease. And how does one practise patience? By staying away from crowds, avoiding stepping out of homes… You will not only be unjust to yourself but also to your family,” the PM said.
He urged those above 65 years of age to stay at home over the next few weeks, comparing the restrictions to the blackouts and drills practised in the last century when there were frequent wars, and urged people to work from home as much as possible.
“I would appeal to every individual to, if possible, call at least 10 people on the phone everyday, explaining to them how to protect themselves from the virus as well as the idea of people’s curfew,” Modi said.
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