India’s Modi urges citizens to follow lockdown as coronavirus spreads

Two men eat their iftar meals inside an almost empty Sidi Saiyyed mosque Ramadan, during a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India, April 26, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 April 2020

India’s Modi urges citizens to follow lockdown as coronavirus spreads

  • India’s high population density, poor sanitation infrastructure and high levels of internal migration have raised concern over the spread of the virus
  • The country has reported 26,496 cases of COVID-19, the disease it causes, and 824 deaths

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to comply with a nationwide lockdown and social distancing measures on Sunday, a day after some of the world’s toughest restrictions were eased slightly while cases of COVID-19 continued to mount.
In a radio address, Modi said the country was in the midst of a “war” and the country’s 1.3 billion citizens should not be misled into believing the spread of the virus had been brought fully under control by more than a month of lockdown.
“We should not be trapped into over-confidence and nurse the belief that coronavirus has not reached our city, our village, our streets, our office, and so will not reach them,” Modi said.
India’s high population density, poor sanitation infrastructure and high levels of internal migration have raised concern over the spread of the virus. The country has reported 26,496 cases of COVID-19, the disease it causes, and 824 deaths.
The authorities have set up teams to focus on compliance with lockdown measures imposed on March 25, but experts fear they have not been able to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“Physical distancing, covering the face with a cover or a mask and washing our hands again and again will be the biggest medicine to fight this disease in the days to come,” Modi said.
The lockdown, in which domestic and international travel is banned and factories, schools, offices and all shops other than those supplying essential services are shut, is slated to end on May 3, but authorities may extend it.
On Saturday, India allowed some small shops in residential areas to reopen with half the usual number of staff members working at any one time wearing masks and gloves.
The government announced a spending package of 1.7 trillion rupees ($22.29 billion) in March and told Reuters on Friday it was offering food and cash for essentials to poor and marginalized people and had set up relief camps in various parts of the country.
The $2.9 trillion economy, already slowing, may end up not growing at all in the fiscal year that began on April 1, private economists say, putting further pressure on jobs.
Decision reversed
In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, government officials on Sunday reversed the decision to open several retail outlets, citing growing numbers of infections across the western state.
Authorities continued to send hundreds of migrant laborers who had set out on foot from cities where they had lost their livelihoods to their homes or to quarantine centers across India.
In the eastern state of Odisha, nearly two dozen fishermen were stopped and quarantined at the coast after they had sailed for five days from the southern coast, an official said.
Thousands of people pack coronavirus quarantine centers in government buildings across India, complaining of poor food and sanitation. A lack of social distancing between inmates has led to minor scuffles.
Three men were arrested after a woman said she was gang-raped while under temporary quarantine alone in a school building in the desert state of Rajasthan, police said.
Many health care workers also complained of poor facilities at India’s overburdened hospitals and nursing homes.
In West Bengal state, a health official succumbed to COVID-19 infection on Sunday, the state chief minister said. Two policemen died in western city of Mumbai after being infected by the virus in past two days, officials said.


Italy considers extending COVID-19 emergency until Jan. 31

Updated 16 min 48 sec ago

Italy considers extending COVID-19 emergency until Jan. 31

  • The emergency, set to expire in mid-October, gives the government greater powers

ROME: Italy is considering extending until Jan. 31 next year its state of emergency over the COVID-19 crisis, two national newspapers said on Thursday.
The emergency, set to expire in mid-October, gives the government greater powers, allowing officials to more easily bypass the bureaucracy that smothers much decision-making in Italy.
Dailies Il Messagero and Corriere della Sera said a cabinet meeting discussed the issue late on Wednesday.
“It is not official yet.. while at first (the government) talked about pushing it back to Dec. 31, during the meeting (the government) considered going beyond the end of the year, given that the cohabitation with the virus is destined to go on for a long time still,” Il Messaggero said.