New Delhi: Calling for “resolve and restraint” to fight coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asked the entire country to observe ‘Janta curfew’ on Sunday.
In a nearly 30-minute national broadcast, he asked people to stay indoors and work from home as much as possible while underscoring the dangers of coronavirus, saying the world has never seen a crisis as grave as this. “Even World War I and II did not affect as many countries as coronavirus has done,” Modi said, asking people to avoid this mindset that the disease will not affect India much when it has hit hard many developed countries.
Amid incidents of people resorting to hoarding food items in panic, Modi said “panic-buying” must be avoided and essential things, including medicines, should not be hoarded, adding his government is working to ensure their supply.
Pitching for “social distancing”, Modi called for ‘Janta curfew’ on March 22 from 7 am-9 pm, saying no citizen, barring those in essential services, should get out of their house, and asserted that it will be a litmus test to show how much India is ready to take on the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic.This experience will serve the nation well, he added. “This Sunday, that is on 22 March, all citizens must follow this curfew from 7 am until 9 pm. During this curfew, we shall neither leave our homes, nor get onto the streets and refrain from roaming about in our societies or areas. Only those associated with emergency and essential services may leave their homes,” he said.
Lauding the hard work of medical professionals, sanitation staff, airline crews, delivery persons and media personnel among others, Modi asked people to express gratitude to them by giving them a five-minute standing ovation at 5 pm on Sunday by clapping hands, beating plates or ringing out bells. The prime minister also announced the setting up of a ‘Covid-19 Economic Response Task Force’ to decide on relief package for sectors hit by the coronavirus outbreak. The task force, to be headed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, will look at measures to limit economic hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said in his address to the nation.
The prime minister began his address by highlighting the scale of corornavirus’ impact and noted that there is a view that India has averted the crisis and all is well.”This mindset is not correct. Complacency in respect of a global pandemic like coronavirus is not appropriate. It is essential that each and every Indian remains alert and cautious,” he said and asked a few weeks from the countrymen.
Studies of countries hit by the pandemic have revealed that it exploded after a few days, and the number of people infected by it grew at a very rapid pace.A cure or vaccine for coronavirus has not been found yet, Modi said, adding that a few countries have controlled the situation by taking quick decisions and by isolating more and more people.
Even developed countries have been badly hit by the disease, he said and stated that it would be wrong to believe that the pandemic will not much impact India which has a population of 1.3 billion and is a developing country. “It is essential to keep two key factors in mind in order to combat this pandemic: resolve and restraint,” he said. “I appeal to you that for the next few weeks, step out of your homes only if absolutely necessary. As far as possible, try and do all your work, whether related to business or job, from home. Senior citizens, those above 60-65 years of age, should not leave their homes over the next few weeks,” Modi said.
He asked people to follow the directives of central and state governments to combat coronavirus. It is critical that in this global pandemic, humanity emerges victorious, India emerges victorious, he said.He said the pandemic is “deeply hurting” the economic interests and well-being of India’s middle class, lower-middle class, and poor segments.
“In such a time of crisis, I request the business world and high income segments of society to as much as possible, look after the economic interests of all the people who provide them services,” he said. Modi pointed out that in few days it is possible these people may not be able to come to office or people’s homes. “In such a case, do treat them with empathy and humanity and not deduct their salaries. Always keep in mind that they too need to run their homes, protect their families from illness,” he said.
During such a pandemic, only the mantra “the world will be health if we stay healthy” will help, he said adding that in a situation like this, where there is no known cure for the disease, it is imperative that people stay healthy. “Patience is an essential virtue in order to avoid this disease, and keep oneself healthy,” he said.
He also urged youth, organisations like NCC, NSS, civil society to spread awareness about this people’s curfew over the next two days.”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,” he said.