New Delhi: India will observe an unprecedented shutdown on Sunday following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal for a 'Janata curfew', with people being urged to voluntarily stay indoors from 7am to 9pm to check the spread of coronavirus. Public transport will be suspended or curtailed and all markets and establishments, except those dealing in essential goods and services, will remain closed for the day.
The number of coronavirus cases rose to 283 after 60 new cases were detected on Saturday, the highest so far in a day, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) late on Saturday night said the number had touched 315.
States like Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Bihar have announced a partial lockdown till the end of the month.
No passenger train will originate from any railway station in the country from midnight to 10pm on Sunday while all suburban train services will be reduced to a bare minimum as well. Metro services, including in Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai, will remain suspended for the day.
Air carriers like GoAir, IndiGo and Vistara have announced they will curtail domestic operations on Sunday.
Traders' body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) announced they will keep their establishments shut across the country.
From suspending regular prayers involving large gatherings in shrines of various faiths, including Sunday mass, to disallowing jail inmates from meeting their families on the day, organisations and institutions in every sphere have announced restrictions.
Modi on Thursday called for the 'Janata curfew' from 7am to 9pm on March 22, saying no citizen, barring those in essential services, should get out of their houses, asserting this will be a litmus test to show India's readiness to take on the coronavirus challenge.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla asked chief secretaries of all states to ensure the 'Janata Curfew' is observed properly and to see that local bodies, fire services, police and civil defence blow sirens or ring bells on Sunday evening to express gratitude towards those involved in tackling the disease.
"We are looking for unity in isolation," said Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health Lav Agarwal.
Describing it as the need of the hour, Union Home Minister Amit Shah asked everyone in the country to support the step. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu also made a fervent appeal to the people to confine themselves to homes. He said since the virus spreads through physical contact, social distancing is an effective measure to contain its spread by avoiding contact during the incubation period of the virus.
In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said 50% of the buses will ply on roads on Sunday considering some people may have to travel due to an emergency.
Autos and taxis will, however, be off roads in the national capital as several unions have decided to join the curfew.
Leaders and other prominent personalities also urged the traders not to hoard essential items and the people to purchase only necessary things.
Entire humanity seems to be in danger, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, adding social distancing is the best way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The Bihar government ordered shutting down of bus services, restaurants and banquet halls across the state till March 31. All schools and malls are already closed in the state.
The voluntary curfew should not seen as a burden, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said. Except emergency services, including medical, fire services and electricity, others should close down voluntarily and people should stay home for 24 hours in the interest of their own families, state, country and humanity, he said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also asked the people of the state to cooperate with the curfew and engage in cleaning their home and surroundings.
(With inputs from PTI)