Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.
Millions of Indians stayed at home on Sunday, March 22, 2020, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an unprecedented Janta Curfew (peoples’ curfew) from 7am to 9pm to reduce the risk of spreading the potentially fatal COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Most public transport and all shops and services were closed during the curfew, with the exception of essential and emergency services. The prime minister requested that people stay indoors and not leave out of the house except in the case of an emergency. But netizens are wondering whether this measure is sufficient to stop the spread of this disease in this populous country. In the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, the curfew has been extended till Monday morning.
In a few minutes from now, the #JantaCurfew commences.
Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against COVID-19 menace. The steps we take now will help in the times to come.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 22, 2020
People generally observed the Janata curfew, posting the views of empty roads and bridges from their houses and hotel rooms.
(If u are not from Bangalore, you won't appreciate what a miracle this is) pic.twitter.com/ejfeLZIoLR
— Shannu Kaw (@ShannuKaw) March 22, 2020
— Samir Abbas (@TheSamirAbbas) March 22, 2020
— ANIL BOHRA (@AnilBohra30) March 22, 2020
— Manish Shukla (@manishmedia) March 22, 2020
Covid-19 in India
As of March 22, 2020, India has reported 345 cases of COVID-19, with the numbers showing a steady growth. There have been six deaths so far. In a country with a population of more than 1.37 billion people, extreme preventive measures are essential to curb the spread of the virus.
Measures taken by the Indian government include banning the entry of visitors from all EU countries, Turkey and the UK from March 18, 2020. Throughout India all passenger train service has been suspended till March 31, though cargo trains will continue to function throughout the country. Local bus and metro service in cities like Mumbai and some suburban areas have been suspended.
Large department stores, shopping malls, gyms, theatres, colleges, schools and universities have been shut since March 15 in most cities. People have been asked to stay at home and some companies have been issued a government circular directing them to grant work-from-home privileges to all employee, and to allow not more than 35 employees to be present at one time on the business premises.
All people arriving in India are checked at the airport. Those without symptoms are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days, and those suspected of being infected receive a hand stamp with the date from which the 14-day quarantine is mandatory. People with mild symptoms or temperature arriving from other countries are quarantined. Facilities belonging to the army, and the Sports Authority of India have been commandeered for use as quarantine centres to supplement government hospital facilities. The government has also reopened a hospital in Bangalore and will turn it into the country's first facility dedicated exclusively to COVID-19. India has also evacuated more than 600 Indian nationals from Italy.
Across India, 70-plus testing centres have been established. Private testing facilities will also be able to offer testing soon. The government has issued guidelines stating that the cost of a test at a private testing facility should not be more than 4,500 rupees (approximately $60 USD).
Indian Council of Medical Research D-G Dr Balram Bhargava holds press briefing on #COVID19, says ICMR is encouraging private laboratories to set up facilities to test for the novel coronavirus pic.twitter.com/X7Vb3gKmX6
— WION (@WIONews) March 17, 2020
Janta Curfew extended
The chief minister of Maharashtra announced on March 22, that the Janta curfew has been extended till Monday morning, and the entire state has been put under Section 144 from March 23, 2020. Section 144 restricts assembly of more than 4 people. He also added that no international flights will not be allowed to land in Mumbai airport till March 31, 2020.
In the address declaring the Janta Curfew, Prime Minister Modi requested that people to clap as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for people working in the essential services sector that includes medical services, groceries, dairy and produce distribution and aviation. This request received a mixed reaction and some criticism.
Thank you @airindiain senior pilots, Capt Chauhan and entire crew for the Rome evacuation of Indians and for risking your life at the front line. This evening at 5 pm a big clank on your thali for them too please folks #JantaCurfew pic.twitter.com/p9Kt9HBHYb
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) March 22, 2020
What was expected?
🔸Expanding CoVid Testing
🔸Good Financial Package
What was announced?
🔸1 day #JantaCurfew
🔸5 PM – 5 Min Balcony Applause
🔸No Panic Buying
PM said it's a war-like situation.
We should have taken war-like measures, not usual gimmicks!
— Srivatsa (@srivatsayb) March 19, 2020
I support the Junta curfew and I will also be clapping from my window this evening at 5pm.
But, India also urgently needs
1. Mass testing kits and testing capacity
2. Ventilators and medical infrastructure
3. Isolation wards in every private + public hospital
4. Free treatment
— Faye DSouza (@fayedsouza) March 22, 2020
“Washing hands is key to containing coronavirus – but 2.2 billion people lack access to clean water”
Rather than focusing on #JantaCurfewMarch22 , Govt should focus on improving primary health care & access to clean water to every single citizen of India.#CoronavirusPandemic
— Abhijit Mukherjee (@ABHIJIT_LS) March 22, 2020
People also urged others not to resist the tempation to “celebrate” the end of the curfew by taking to the streets. This message has been shared by many.
Appeal to my fellow countrymen. Tomorrow night at 21:00 when the #JantaCurfew gets over don’t get out in the streets as if we’ve won the World Cup . It will defeat the 12 hours of good work you did staying indoors 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼
— Ronnie Lahiri (@ronnielahiri) March 21, 2020
Actions taken by the government and citizens of India over next few weeks will be crucial in terms of curbing the spread of the virus.