NEW DELHI: Seeking to implement social-distancing measures to check the spread of the coronavirus, the Press Information Bureau (PIB) gave journalists an option on Saturday to watch the briefing on the cabinet decisions online and put questions to Union ministers through WhatsApp.
The journalists present at the National Media Centre were asked to maintain a distance with each other by leaving seats and rows vacant.
Not many scribes were present at the National Media Centre.
Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar and Mansukh Mandaviya were present at the briefing.
In his address to the nation on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pitched for social distancing as a measure to check the spread of the coronavirus, saying precautions were necessary as there was no sure shot cure for COVID-19.
On the other hand, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on Saturday asked chief secretaries of all states to ensure that the 'Janta Curfew' called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday is observed properly in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The home secretary also told the top bureaucrats of all states to see that local bodies, fire services, police and civil defence blow sirens or ring bells on Sunday evening to express gratitude towards those involved in tackling the disease.
"As you are aware, Hon'ble Prime Minister, during his address to the Nation on March 19, on combating COVID-19, requested all citizens to observe 'Janta' curfew (a curfew imposed for the people, by the people, on the people themselves) from 7 AM until 9 PM on this Sunday, the 22nd March 2020.
"During this curfew, no one apart from those involved with essential services is supposed to venture out of home," Bhalla said in his letter.
The home secretary said the prime minister had also mentioned that there are many brave people who are at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic like medical staff, police, government servants, airline staff, media persons, bus/train/auto operators and those involved in providing home delivery.
To show gratitude to their selfless service to the nation during such trying times, the prime minister had expressed his desire that at 5 pm on March 22 all citizens acknowledge and salute their efforts by standing in balconies or at the doors of their houses and clap or ring bells for five minutes, he added.
"All States and Union Territories are, therefore, requested to widely disseminate the message of the Hon'ble Prime Minister to the community at large," Bhalla said.
"Further, Urban Local Bodies, Panchayati Raj Institutions, Fire Services, Police Services, Civil Defence and Industrial Establishments etc., should be advised to ring a siren at 5.00 pm on March 22 for intimation of all citizens," he said.