India’s prime minister Narendra Modi decrees 21-day lockdown to curb coronavirus

Indians watch on television Prime Minister Narendra Modi address the nation amid concerns of coronavirus outbreak in New Delhi. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 24 March 2020

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi decrees 21-day lockdown to curb coronavirus

  • India’s stay-at-home order puts nearly one-fifth of the world’s population under lockdown

NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented move, India declared 21 days of lockdown for its 1.3 billion citizens from midnight on Tuesday to contain the escalating coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement on Tuesday evening in a televised address to the nation.

“From midnight, the entire country will be in lockdown, total lockdown. To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family, every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown,”  Modi said in his second address in the last five days.

He added that: “21 days’ lockdown may seem to be a long time, but this is the only way to ensure everyone is safe. If we don’t handle these 21 days well, then our country, your family will go backwards by 21 years.”

Referring to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, the prime minister said that it takes 67 days for the virus to spread to 100,000 people, 11 days to reach 200,000 people but only four days to reach the next 100,000.

Modi also announced 15,000 crore rupees ($2 million) of assistance to develop the country’s health care system so it can deal with COVID-19. The money will be used to improve testing facilities, personal protective equipment, intensive care units, ventilators and for training medical workers.

Major states of India had already announced lockdowns on Sunday by sealing borders and only giving freedom of movement to essential services.

From midnight on Tuesday, all domestic flights have been suspended until March 31. This comes almost a week after the suspension of all international flights.

Train services across the country were put on hold until March 31 from Sunday.

Delhi has been in a state of lockdown since Monday with the suspension of all public transport and the sealing of the border.

India has more than 500 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, with ten recorded deaths so far.

Medical experts worry that without stringent measures like social distancing and quarantines, the virus will become overwhelming in the world’s second-most populous nation.

“Social distancing and lockdowns are the only answer to contain the virus. A country like India cannot cope with the virus if it spreads to the community,” Dr Arvind Kumar, who works at Delhi-based Sir Gangaram Hospital, told Arab News.

Immediately after the prime minister’s announcement on Tuesday, people flocked to grocery and vegetable shops.

“This is unprecedented. We have to stock some rations to sustain in this emergency. The announcement is too sudden”,  Sambhu Prasad, a resident of Mokama in Bihar’s Patna district, told Arab News.

Delhi-based political analyst and economist Pranjoy Guha Thakaruta said that Modi should have announced some specific measures for poor people to cope with the crisis.

“Why did the prime minister not announce any specific measures for the poor, the daily-wage worker and the homeless? How will they survive for the next 3 weeks? What about those who are faced with a choice of either feeding their families or contracting the virus?”


Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

Updated 30 March 2020

Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during virus shutdown

  • The 1884 painting, titled the ‘Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,’ was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam
  • The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million

THE HAGUE: Thieves stole a painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh early Monday in a daring heist from a museum that was closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 1884 painting, titled the “Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring,” was taken during a pre-dawn break-in at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam.
The criminals smashed through a glass door and then took the painting, which is valued at up to €6 million ($6.6 million).
“I am shocked and unbelievably annoyed this theft has happened,” Jan Rudolph de Lorm, one of the museum’s directors, told a press conference.
“Art is there to be seen, to be enjoyed, to inspire and to bring solace, particularly in these troubled times in which we find ourselves,” De Lorm said.
The theft happened on what would have been the 167th birthday of the brilliant yet troubled artist.
“Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring” comes from relatively early on in Van Gogh’s career, before the prolific artist embarked on his trademark post-impressionist paintings such as “Sunflowers” and his vivid self-portraits.
The painting was on loan from its owners, the Groninger Museum in the north of the Netherlands, as part of an exhibition.
The Singer Laren museum closed two weeks ago in compliance with Dutch government measures aimed at tackling the spread of COVID-19.
Dutch police said the criminals had broken in at around 3:15 am (0115 GMT).
“Police officers immediately rushed to the scene but the perpetrators had escaped,” Dutch police said in a statement, appealing for witnesses.
The painting has an estimated value of between one million and six million euros, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand said.
“The hunt is on,” said Brand, who is known for recovering stolen Nazi art including “Hitler’s Horses.”
It was the third time the famous Dutch master’s works have been targeted in the Netherlands since the 1990s, Brand said.
“To me this looks like the work of a copycat,” Brand told AFP, adding the modus operandi was similar to the other two cases.
“The thieves only went for a Van Gogh, while there are other works too in the museum,” he said.
Asked whether he thought there was enough security at the museum Brand said “it is very difficult to say.”
“Securing a painting is very difficult. It is something that has to be displayed for people to see,” he said.
The museum’s 3,000 pieces also include works by Dutch abstract master Piet Mondrian and Dutch-Indonesian painter Jan Toorop, as well as a casting of “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin.
Singer Laren was targeted in 2007 when thieves stole a number of castings from its gardens including “The Thinker,” Dutch media reports said. The castings were recovered two days later.
Two Van Gogh masterpieces went back on display at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum last year after they were stolen from the museum in 2002.
The paintings — the 1882 ” View of the Sea at Scheveningen” and the 1884/5 “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen” — were recovered by Italian investigators in September 2016 when they raided a home belonging to an infamous mafia drug baron near Naples.
Previously three Van Goghs that were stolen from the Noordbrabants Museum in 1990 later resurfaced when a notorious Dutch criminal made a deal with prosecutors.