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India wore a deserted look on Sunday responding to PM Modi's call for Janata Curfew on March 22. (Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
India wore a deserted look on Sunday responding to PM Modi's call for Janata Curfew on March 22. (Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

Janata Curfew: India embraces social distancing to fight novel coronavirus

India has so far reported 315 cases, with four deaths. Centre and states have been urging people to practise ‘social distancing’ to reduce the spread of the disease

NEW DELHI : India on Sunday woke up to the chirping of the birds instead of the steady hum of traffic as people largely stayed indoors, supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for a Janata curfew following a rapid rise in cases of Covid-19 in the country.

Prime Minister Modi on Thursday, in an address to the nation, had appealed to the people to follow 'Janata curfew' on Sunday from 7am to 9pm, in an attempt to contain the spread of the pandemic

India has so far reported 315 cases, with four deaths. The Centre and states have been urging people to practise ‘social distancing’ to reduce the spread of the disease.

According to Johns Hopkins University's live tracker, world over the number of infected stands at 307,277, with 13,048 having succumbed to the disease.

“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. Stay indoors and stay healthy," Modi said in a tweet.

Public transport largely was at a standstill or worked at minimum capacity for emergency services, with airlines operations also suspended. Many trains have also been cancelled.

In the national capital, the streets bore an empty look with police personnel deployed at key points offering roses and caution to those who had to step out. Bus services were running at 50% capacity, while metro services have been shut for the period.

Streets in Dwarka in Delhi were completely deserted, with residents staying home, not even moving within society complexes. There were no sounds of children playing and only security guards were in sight.

Similarly, in Lajpat Nagar, the morning wore a quiet look. A small neighbourhood grocery shop was open, while the otherwise bustling streets were empty.

Mumbai on Sunday also honoured Prime Minister's appeal for the Janta Curfew by staying indoors. Though the curfew was effective 7 am, people skipped their morning walks as parks remained shut. Public transport was curtailed and only shops selling essentials were open.

Maharashtra has the highest number of positive Covid-19 cases in the country. On Saturday the total number of Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra shot up to 63 with 11 new cases detected overnight among several foreign-returned nationals. While one case is from Pune, 10 were detected in Mumbai, including three with no history of foreign travel. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday had slapped a ban on all non-essential services in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.

Establishments providing essential services, including drinking water, sewerage services, banking services telephone and internet services, food, vegetable, groceries, hospitals, medical centres, medical stores, electricity, petroleum, oil, energy, media, port, essential IT services will continue to operate.

With all passenger and intercity trains suspended from midnight to 10 pm on Sunday, Mumbai's busiest railway terminals--Dadar and the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus-- wore a deserted look.

The streets of Bengaluru were also devoid of people and vehicles. Areas like Majestic, MG Road and other parts of the central business district at standstill. Operations at Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation remained suspended.

Karnataka chief minister B.S.Yediyurappa on Sunday said the state has decided to close its borders as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the disease. The government has postponed 10th standard exams, scheduled to start on 27 March.

Yediyurappa asked people in the cities to avoid travelling to their hometowns or villages as it will could lead to the infections spreading wider. He said the 1700-bed Victoria Hospital will be converted into a dedicated Covid-19 hospital, while a 24/7 'war room' will be set up in Bengaluru to coordinate efforts.

In anticipation of the curfew, long queues were seen in outside supermarkets, grocery, and vegetable stores.

In Hyderabad, public transport remained shut with most shops and establishments closed.

Residential areas in Hyderabad wore a deserted look, with mostly everybody inside. Some apartment blocks also refused entry of non-residents. "We got a message today saying that only those living in the building will be allowed to enter and that gates will be shut," said a resident of Hyderabad's Hitech City area.

The age-old Monda vegetable market in Secunderabad was completely shut , with nobody in sight

(Lata Jha and Suneera Tandon in Delhi, Kalpana Pathak in Mumbai, Sharan Poovanna in Bengaluru, Yunus Y. Lasania in Hyderabad and contributed to the story.)

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