Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days from Tuesday midnight, asserting that social distancing is the only way out for the country in its decisive battle against the coronavirus.
In his second address to the nation 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 'lakshman rekha' of their homes in the next three weeks.
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, he said.
"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."
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.
Modi folded his hands a few times to emphasise his request to citizens to adhere to his call, saying it is applicable to everyone from the prime minister to a citizen in a village.
Even countries like Italy, France and the US with world class infrastructure have been left helpless due to the spread of the disease despite their relentless efforts, he said, emphasising the gravity of the situation.
Allaying apprehensions, Modi said people need not panic about availability of essential commodities and medicines during the 21-day nationwide lockdown, as Centre and various state governments will work together to ensure this. Amid reports of panic buying at various places following his announcement, Modi requested people to refrain from "panic buying." "My fellow citizens, there is absolutely no need to panic," Modi tweeted.
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," he said.