Enforcing the longest stay-at-home order as health authorities try to break the coronavirus transmission chain, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days from Tuesday midnight.
Underlining social distancing as the only way to deal with the outbreak threat, the Prime Minister, in his second address to the nation on the pandemic, said the lockdown “is like a curfew” and while “21 days of lockdown is a long time”, “it is equally essential for your safety and that of your family… jaan hai toh jahaan hai”.
With folded hands, Modi urged citizens to adhere to his call, saying it is applicable to everyone — from the Prime Minister to a citizen in a village. “Currently, India is at a stage where our current actions will determine how much we are able to minimise the impact of this disaster.”
“The next 21 days are of critical importance for us. As per health experts, a period of at least 21 days is extremely critical to break the infection chain of coronavirus. If the situation is not handled in these 21 days, the country and your family could go back 21 years. If the situation is not handled in these 21 days, several families will get devastated forever. Hence, you must forget what going out means for the next 21 days. Stay inside your home, stay inside your home, and do just one thing — stay inside your home,” he said.
“This decision… has drawn a Lakshman Rekha at your doorsteps. You must remember that a single step outside your home can bring a dangerous pandemic like corona inside.” he said.
Describing the lockdown “a few levels more than the Janata Curfew, and also stricter”, the Prime Minister said it is “a necessary step in the decisive fight” against the pandemic. Although “the nation will have to certainly pay an economic cost because of this lockdown”, he said “to save the life of each and every Indian is mine, Government of India’s, each state government’s, each local unit’s top most priority”.
Acknowledging that “this crisis has certainly brought on a very difficult time for the poor”, he said the central and state governments “are constantly striving to ensure that citizen do not face much inconvenience in their daily life. We have made provisions to ensure that supplies of all essential items continue smoothly… Along with the central and state governments, individuals from civil societies and institutions are constantly striving to reduce the problems of the poor. Several people are collaborating their efforts to help the poor,” he said.
The Centre, he said, had put in place a provision of Rs 15,000 crores for treating coronavirus patients and strengthening the medical infrastructure of the country. “This will allow for quickly boosting the number of corona testing facilities, personal protective equipment (PPE), isolation beds, ICU beds, ventilators and other essential equipment. Simultaneously, training of medical and paramedical manpower will also be undertaken.”
Emphasising the importance of social distancing, he warned people that if this is not followed “it will be impossible to estimate the price India will have to pay if this carelessness continues”.
“All of you are also witnessing how the most advanced countries of the world have been rendered absolutely helpless by this pandemic. It is not that these countries are not putting in adequate efforts or they lack resources. The coronavirus is spreading at such a rapid pace that despite all the preparations and efforts, these countries are finding it hard to manage the crisis.”
“If we want to restrict the spread of coronavirus, we will have to break its chain of infection. Some people are under the delusion that social distancing is essential only for sick people. It is wrong to make those assumptions. Social distancing is necessary for each citizen, for each family, and for each member of the family. Carelessness of a few, ill-conceived notions of a few can put you, your children, your parents, your family, your friends, the entire country in grave jeopardy,” he said.
“It took 67 days for the count of people infected with corona to reach the first one lakh all over the world. After this, it took only 11 days for another one lakh people to get infected. Think, it took 67 days for it to infect one lakh people at first, but only 11 days to reach a total of two lakh people. This is even more alarming that it took only four days for this disease to reach three lakh people from the count of two lakh. You can imagine how rapidly coronavirus spreads.
Once it begins to spread, it is very difficult to contain it.”
Modi said “this is the reason that the situation became uncontrollable when coronavirus started spreading in countries such as China, US, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Iran. Also remember, whether it is Italy or US, the healthcare services in these countries are considered to be among the best in the world. Despite this, these countries have not been able to contain the impact of corona.”
“The ray of hope to combat corona comes from the experiences of those countries that have been able to contain corona to some extent. Citizens of these countries have not stepped out of their homes for weeks. Citizen of these countries have fully adhered to the government rules and hence, these countries now are heading towards overcoming this pandemic.”
Urging people to “beware of any kind of rumours or superstitions”, he praised those leading the fight against the threat. “While you are staying at home, you must think about and pray for the wellbeing of people who are fulfilling their duties, who are exposing themselves to great risk.”
“Think about the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, pathologists who are working day and night in hospitals to save each and every life. Think about hospital administration staff, ambulance drivers, ward boys, sanitation workers who are working to serve others in these difficult conditions. Pray for those people who are working to sanitize your society, your locality, your streets, and public places to ensure that this virus is eradicated completely.”
“Think about the media persons as well who are working round the clock and risking infection while reporting from the streets and hospitals. Think about the police force around you, who are working relentlessly without worrying about the welfare of their family. They are working day and night to save you and, on several occasions, also bearing the wrath of the public,” he said.
Incidentally, on Monday, the Prime Minister had given an indication of what was coming. Without rejecting the demand for a financial package and special assistance for daily wage labourers, Modi told some Opposition leaders — this was during the customary tea at Speaker Om Birla’s chamber on Monday after Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die in view of the outbreak — that the government’s priority as of now is to implement social distancing so that community transmission of the virus can be contained.
“The PM pointed out that the country cannot afford community spread of the disease and it is internationally agreed and accepted that social distancing is the only formula we can adopt to control it,” said an MP who was present there.
Opposition leaders including Congress MPs Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Suresh Kodikkunnil, DMK leader T R Baalu and RSP MP N K Premachandran together raised the issue of financial aid.
“He (Modi) said we will have to consider providing financial assistance, but it will have to be dealt at the second stage.
He said as of now, our entire focus should be on the implementation of social distancing,” the MP said.
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