Indian government lockdown 80 coronavirus-hit districts across the country

indica News Bureau-

India’s vast population heeded prime minister Narendra Modi’s appeal for a voluntary “people’s curfew” to curb the spread of the coronavirus as the government shut down the rail system to stop people fleeing cities. As many as 13 states have announced lockdown in their cities.

New Delhi’s India Gate, the site of a war memorial that draws thousands of people on weekends, was deserted on Sunday, while Mumbai’s Marine Drive, an arterial road normally jammed with honking cars, stood empty.

Eighty districts that have reported confirmed coronavirus cases or deaths will run only essential public services till that date, said a government press release.

The Centre and state governments have decided to completely shut down all 80 districts across the country where coronavirus (covid-19) cases have been reported, officials said on Sunday.

It has also been decided to suspend the interstate bus services till March 31, the officials said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced a complete shut down of the national capital till March 31 to stem the virus spread. India will also suspend trains, transport between states and Metro in its biggest cities during the same period. several cities of Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra also sealed their borders and announced complete lockdown.

India’s health authorities maintain that the country is still in stage two of the outbreak with all confirmed cases either imported by travelers or transmitted by returned passengers to direct contacts such as family, friends and colleagues.

But the emergence of at least three Indian coronavirus patients with no known link to travelers has fanned fears that the country has entered stage three — community transmission — where the virus is circulating freely.

Experts fear that India has underestimated the rate of infection by limiting diagnostic testing. The world’s second-largest country of 1.37bn has tested fewer than 20,000 people as of Sunday, far below the 160,000 that Germany is testing weekly. South Korea, which is conducting 15,000 tests daily, has been held up as an example of a country that has managed to get the outbreak until control.

Over the weekend, authorities widened coronavirus testing criteria from travelers with symptoms to all hospitalized patients with acute respiratory infections, along with direct contacts of confirmed patients, a measure that will dramatically increase the pool of tests.

India reported three more coronavirus deaths on Sunday, including the first casualty from Bihar, taking the toll to seven and the number of Covid-19 cases rose to 396, officials said.