NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown in the entire country effective from midnight to deal with the spread of coronavirus, saying "social distancing" is the only option to deal with the disease which spreads rapidly.
In a televised address to the nation, the Prime Minister said it is vital to break the chain of the disease and experts have said that at least 21 days are needed for it.
The Prime Minister, who had also addressed the nation last week, said the lockdown has drawn a "lakshman rekha" in every home and people should stay indoors for their own protection and for that of their families.
Noting that the Centre has on Tuesday allocated Rs 15000 crore for treatment of coronavirus patients and to strengthen health infrastructure, he said testing facilities, personal protective equipment, isolation beds, ICU beds, ventilators, and other necessary material will be ramped up.
The Prime Minister said the country will have to bear the economic cost of lockdown but saving the life of every citizen is his priority and priority of central and state governments as also local administrations.
Noting that the virus spreads like fire, he said if care is not taken for 21 days, the country, a family can go behind by 21 years.
Modi said people are seeing how the global pandemic has made even the most resourceful countries helpless.
"The result that has come after studying the cases for two months, which experts are also saying, is that social distancing is the only effective option. There is no other way. If the spread of coronavirus is to be stopped, its cycle of spread is to be broken," he said.
He said some people have the mistaken belief that social distancing is only for the sick. "This thinking is not right. It is for every citizen, every family, every member of the family," Modi said.
"Carelessness of a few people, their wrong thinking, can put you, your children, your parents, your friends and the country in great difficulty," he said.
He said for the past two days, the lockdown has been declared in several parts of the country and states should take it seriously.
"From 12 tonight, there will be lockdown in the entire country. To save the country, to save every citizen, a ban, a complete ban is being imposed against come out of homes. Every state, Union territory, district, village, locality, is being locked down," he said.
Modi said it is curfew in a way.
"It will stricter than Janta curfew. My request is that stay where you are in the country. Seeing the situation of the country, the lockdown will be applicable for 21 days. The next 21 days are very important. If we go by health experts, at least 21 days are vital to breaking the cycle of coronavirus spread," he added.
Modi repeatedly urged people to stay at home. "Do one thing - stay at home. Today's decision of countrywide lockdown has drawn "lakshman rekha" at the door of every home," he said.
Modi said people should remember that sometimes a person with coronavirus appears absolutely healthy. "Hence exercise precaution, stay at home," he said.
He said it took 67 days for one lakh persons to be affected, 11 days for figure to reach two lakhs and only four days for the figure to reach three lakhs. "The disease spreads very fast," he said.
He said this is the reason that when it started spreading in China, USA, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Iran, the situation became uncontrollable.
"What is the solution? The ray of hope is the experience from those countries who could control it to some extent. We should also think that we have only one way and that is not to come out of houses, whatever happens," he said.
"India is today at a stage that our actions will determine how we are able to reduce the impact of the global pandemic. It is time to strengthen our resolve. This is moment of patience and discipline. When the country is under lockdown, we have to implement our resolve, our word. Twenty-one day lockdown is a long period but it is important for your protection and of your family," he said.
He urged people to think of foot soldiers including doctors, nurses, pathologists, sanitation staff who are providing services.
He said central and state governments were working with speed to see that people are not inconvenienced in their daily lives.
Modi said he had urged states to give priority to health care services only.
He urged people to stay away from rumours and not take medicine without prescription from doctor.
The Prime Minister expressed hope that every Indian will follow the instructions of district administration.
He noted that people had fulfilled their responsibility for success of Janata Curfew on March 22.
"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 "curfew" and 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.
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.
Some people suffer from this wrong mindset that only infected persons need to follow social distancing, he said, warning that such a view can endanger lives of others and their families.
"If we don't handle these 21 days well, then our country, your family will go backward by 21 years," he said.
There will be a complete bar on people from stepping outsides their homes, he said and even folded his hands to emphasize his request to citizens to adhere to the call.
Experts and the experience of countries fighting the deadly virus make it clear that the social distancing is the only way to combat the disease, he asserted.