Hundreds of millions of Indians stay indoors after PM Modi’s appeal, Latest World News - The New Paper

Hundreds of millions of Indians stay indoors after PM Modi’s appeal

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MUMBAI: Hundreds of millions of Indians stayed indoors yesterday, heeding Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to citizens to self-isolate as authorities battled to contain the coronavirus epidemic.

At least 341 people have so far contracted the disease and four deaths have been reported in India, according to official data yesterday.

While the 14-hour curfew was voluntary, Mr Modi's national appeal for social distancing reduced the number of people taking to India's densely crowded streets.

Indian Railways, which carries more than 25 million commuters every day, said it has cancelled all passenger train services until March 31.

Firefighters in western India fumigated areas around closed markets, public squares and urban slum districts.

Experts warned that the country's cases are growing at rates seen during the early stages of the outbreak in other countries, which then reported exponential increases in infections.

With more than 1.3 billion people, India is battling the outbreak with limited resources.

Minutes before the self-imposed curfew kicked in, Mr Modi said the curbs would help authorities better fight the Covid-19 menace.

"The steps we take now will help in the times to come," he said in the tweet.

While the curfew was to be relaxed by the evening, authorities have declared lockdowns in many cities and suspended rail and road transport services as fears of community transmission grow.


"The curfew period has given us a chance to scale down each and every activity across India," said a senior aide to Mr Modi, adding a more rigid approach could trigger protests or unrest.

"A breakdown of law and order will be the worst thing to happen at this point of time," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In India's financial capital Mumbai, where millions of people depend on urban rail systems, only workers involved in essential services were allowed to travel on truncated services.

Factories, large industrial parks and banks were declaring a shutdown or finding ways to minimise public movement in offices. - REUTERS