This is only way to fight coronavirus: Modi


No need for panic buying; essential commodities, medicines will remain available; Centre has made provision of Rs 15,000 Cr to strengthen country's health infra

NEW DELHI, Mar 24: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete nationwide lockdown for 21 days from Tuesday midnight, asserting in an emotional appeal "with folded hands" that unless India's 130 crore people practice social distancing, the country will lose the war against coronavirus outbreak and slide back 21 years.
In his second national broadcast in a week on the pandemic raging across much of the world with the number of infections rising in India, Modi made a fervent appeal to the countrymen not to cross the 'lakshmanrekha' of their homes in the next three weeks.
"If the situation is not handled in these 21 days, the country and your family could go back by 21 years. If situation is not handled in these 21 days, several families will get devastated forever," he said underlining the massive danger the coronavirus poses.
"Jaanhaitohjahanhai (the world exists only when we live)," he said, recalling a Hindi idiom to stress on the significance of his appeal. The Centre and state governments have taken measures to ensure that the supply of all essential items continue smoothly, he said, seeking to allay apprehensions among people about availability of food and other essential provisions.
"My fellow citizens, there is absolutely no need to panic. Essential commodities, medicines etc. would be available. Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this," he tweeted after his speech. Separately, the government issued detailed guidelines about the restrictions, along with certain exemptions. In his nearly 30-minute address, Modi underscored the challenge India faces at a time when countries with world class health infrastructure have been left "helpless" due to the rapid pace of the coronavirus' spread as he repeatedly, at times with folded hands, asked people to remain indoors.
"To save India, to save every Indian, there will be a complete ban on people from stepping outside their houses from 12 midnight today," he said. "Lockdown is being imposed on every state, union territory, district, village, mohalla and street," he added.
The lockdown will be like a "curfew" only but more stringent than the 'janata curfew', which the country had observed on Sunday, he said, adding it will have an economic cost but saving people's lives is of the paramount interest to his government.
The experience of countries, which have been able to contain the virus to some extent, and experts' views have made it clear that social distancing caused by a lockdown is the only way to break the cycle of the infection's spread, he said.
This is the only ray of light, he asserted, adding that his government asked states to give health infrastructure their top priority at present.
A lockdown in most of the country was already in place till March 31, and Modi's announcement extended it everywhere and for two more weeks after this month. The lockdown will be applicable to everyone from the prime minister to a citizen in a village, he said.
Even countries like Italy, France and the US with world class infrastructure have found it hard to break the spread of the disease despite their relentless efforts, he said, emphasising the gravity of the situation.
"It took 67 days for it (COVID) 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 4 days for this disease to reach three lakh people from the count of two lakh. If we want to restrict the spread of the coronavirus, we will have to break its chain of infection," the prime minister said.
He lamented that some people suffer from this wrong mindset that only infected persons need to follow social distancing, warning that such a view can endanger lives of others and their families.
"It will be impossible to estimate the price India will have to pay if this carelessness continues. Currently India is at a stage where our current actions will determine how much we are able to minimise the impact of this disaster," he said. According to health experts, he said, a period of at least 21 days is extremely critical to break the infection chain of the coronavirus.
He also showed a banner he had seen on social media that read "Corona, i.e., Koi Road pe Na Nikle (no one should go out on the road)".
It is time to consistently keep strengthening our resolve and exercise caution at every step and observing patience and discipline, he said.
Modi also asked people to remember the hard work being put in by medical personnel, media and police among others during the ongoing crisis.
He noted that the lockdown has brought a very difficult time for the poor and added that the Centre along with states, individuals from civil societies and institutions is constantly striving to reduce their problems of the poor.
The Centre has put in place a provision of Rs 15,000 crore for treating coronavirus patients and strengthening medical infrastructure in the country.
"I am confident that every Indian will not only successfully fight this difficult situation but also emerge victorious," he said.
Modi also said that social distancing is the only option to combat coronavirus and urged people to pray for those who are working while putting their lives at risk.
"While staying at home, remember and pray for people who are working while putting their lives at risk. Remember the doctors, nurses, paramedics, pathologists who are working day and night to save lives, hospital admn, ambulance drivers, ward boys, serving others in these tough times," Modi said in his address to the nation.
"Pray for people who are working to sanitise your society and neigbourhoods, roads and public places to ensure complete eradication of the virus. You must also think about the media persons who are working 24 hours, by staying on roads and going to hospitals, to give you correct info," he added.
Modi said that social distancing is the only option to fight against coronavirus and asserted that it is for every citizen of the country, including the Prime Minister as well.
"People are hearing and watching the worldwide situation arising from the coronavirus pandemic in the news. They are also seeing how the most empowered nations have become helpless in the face of this pandemic. It is not that these nations are not making efforts or lack resources, but the coronavirus is spreading so rapidly, that despite all their efforts, the challenge is increasing," the Prime Minister said.
"The result of a two-month study of these countries, and what the experts are saying, is that social distancing is the only option to combat coronavirus. That is to remain apart from each other and stay confined to your homes. There is no other way to remain safe from coronavirus. If we have to stop the spread of coronavirus, we have to break the cycle of infection," he underlined.
Allaying apprehensions, Prime Minister NarendraModi on Tuesday said people need not panic about availability of essential commodities and medicines during the 21-day nationwide lockdown as the Centre and various state governments will work together to ensure this.
Amid reports of panic buying at various places following his announcement of the 21-day complete lockdown across the country, Modi requested people to refrain from "panic buying."
"My fellow citizens, there is absolutely no need to panic," Modi tweeted soon after his address to the nation in which he announced the lockdown.
He said by converging around shops, people are risking the spread of COVID-19, while asserting that Centre and state governments will ensure all essentials are available.
"Essential commodities, medicines etc. would be available. Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this," he said.
"Together, we will fight COVID-19 and create a healthier India," he said.
Underlining that health services should be the only priority of state governments at this time, Prime Minister NarendraModi on Tuesday said the Centre has made a provision of Rs 15,000 crore to strengthen the country's health infrastructure to tackle coronavirus.
In his second address to the nation in less than a week on the pandemic raging across much of the world, Modi informed that the availability of testing facilities related to COVID-19, personal protective equipment, isolation beds, ICU beds, ventilators and other necessary tools are being increased rapidly.
The Centre has made a provision of Rs 15,000 crore for strengthening country's health infrastructure for the treatment of coronavirus-infected patients, the prime minister said.Modi said he has requested the state governments that their only priority at this time should be health services.
He also suggested people to stay away from superstitions, rumours and everyone must follow only credible medical advice.

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