There is no plan to extend a 21-day lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the government said yesterday, as it struggled to keep essential supplies flowing and prevent tens of thousands of out-of-work people fleeing to the countryside.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the country’s 1.3bn people to remain indoors until April 15 saying that was the only hope to stop the epidemic.
But the order has left millions of impoverished people jobless and hungry.
Defying the lockdown, hundreds of thousands of workers who live on daily wages left big cities like Delhi and Mumbai on foot for their homes in the countryside, many with families.
They said they had no food or money.
Modi on Sunday apologised for the hardship faced by the poor.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba said that there was no plan to extend the shutdown beyond the three weeks, rejecting reports that a prolonged closure was likely.
In Bengaluru, in a stern warning to violators, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa put the onus of lockdown ending on the people following the government’s guidelines.
“Ending of the three-week lockdown depends on strictness with which the people follow the curfew and maintain social distance. In this hour of crisis, it is not good to come out of house and violate the curfew,” Yediyurappa said in a statement.
He appealed to the people to help the state government in preventing the spread of the virus.
“People of Karnataka are known for tolerance and patience. They are law-abiding citizens. The lockdown is a testing time for them. It has come to test the patience of our people,” Yediyurappa said.
Citing apology, the chief minister said everyone should realise the predicament of the prime minister who cares for the well-being of the country and its people.
“Modi’s precautionary measures are yielding results when the performance of the developed countries is miserable in handling Covid outbreak,” he said.
Yediyurappa lamented that many individuals in urban centres were brazenly violating the curfew rules, compelling the police to act against them.
“As the police are human beings like us, don’t test their patience. They are under stress by working without rest. Don’t make them use force and blame them for stern action,” he said.
The chief minister also urged parents not to allow their children to venture outside.
India has 1,071 cases of the coronavirus of whom 29 have died, the Health Ministry said yesterday.
The numbers are small compared with the United States, Italy and China, but health officials say India is weeks away from a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system.
There has been a steady increase in Covid-19 cases since March 20, with 179 cases being reported on Saturday alone, the highest single-day increase so far.
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