1.3 billion under curfew: India ramps up coronavirus response

An aerial view of Delhi, India, on Sunday, March 22, amid a nationwide curfew.
An aerial view of Delhi, India, on Sunday, March 22, amid a nationwide curfew. © AFP / FRANCE 24

The normally packed streets of India’s cities were virtually deserted Sunday as the government ordered a 14-hour curfew in its efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, asking the country’s population of some 1.3 billion to stay at home.


Though not mandatory, images of empty cities suggest the curfew, which ran from 7am to 9pm, was mostly well-observed.

"This (voluntary curfew) that has been launched is good as it is for the public because everyone will want to stay away from this disease. Whatever steps the government will take will be for our good," Murshad, a Delhi resident, told Reuters.

It comes as the country starts to ramp up its coronavirus response, with capital Delhi going into full lockdown on Monday along with most major cities across India. All inter-city and long distance trains, which normally carry 23 million people a day, have also been suspended.

With its large population, crowded cities and overburdened public health system, there are fears India could be hard hit by the virus without drastic action.

The policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have faced criticism in some quarters, with the one-day curfew and an order to clap for health workers at 5pm Sunday dismissed by some as largely symbolic with little public health value.

India has so far recorded 415 cases of the coronavirus and seven deaths, but health experts have warned these figures may be low because of a lack of substantial testing.

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