New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday appealed to the nation to observe a 'Janata Curfew' on March 22. "This will be a symbol of our self-restraint and a resolve of our duties in national interest. It will prepare us for future challenges," he said.
Modi appealed to all citizens not engaged in providing essential services to stay indoors from 7am till 9pm. He also urged them to express their appreciation for the work being done by those in hospitals, airports, home delivery and the transport sector by ringing their doorbells, banging utensils, or by clapping for five minutes at 5pm on Sunday.
"For the past two months, lakhs of people have been working day and night, including doctors, airline staff, housekeeping staff, police, media, home delivery... These are not normal services. These people are themselves in danger of getting infected. The country is obliged to them," he said. "At 5pm, we should stand at our doorsteps and clap hands and plates and ring bells to salute and encourage them."
In his first address to the nation since the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country, Modi appealed to the business community to be "sensitive" towards those who may not be able to report to work in the coming days.
"The pandemic has greatly impacted the economic well-being of middle, lower-middle and poor sections of society. I appeal to the business community to be sensitive to the economic interests of all those people whose services you're using," he said. "It is possible that in the coming few days, they may not be able to report to work. I appeal that you don't cut their wages. That you decide humanely and sensitively. They also have to feed their families."
Modi asked people to avoid routine check-ups at hospitals for the next few weeks in a step to avoid crowding. He also urged people who have booked appointments for elective surgeries and those that are not immediately necessary to postpone their engagements by at least a month.
Modi announced the formation of a COVID-19 task force under the supervision of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, saying it would work with state governments to ensure the economic impact of the pandemic was contained as much as possible.
Besides, he advised people against panic buying. "Steps are being taken to ensure that supply of milk, food items and medicines is not stopped," he said. “Resolve and restraint: with these two qualities, India can fight the menace of Covid-19.”
Modi said that Apart from March 22, in the coming weeks people should remain indoors as much as possible, especially those above 65 years of age, as social distancing is the only effective preventive action against the spread of this pandemic.
Modi made an emotional appeal to fellow Indians and advised them against being complacent in the fight against the pandemic.
"If you think nothing will happen to you, if you roam around in market... it's not the right attitude," he said, adding such an attitude will jeopardise the person and his family.
There is only one mantra to fight this pandemic, said Modi — "Hum swasth, toh jag swasth (If I'm healthy, then the world is healthy)."
To combat rumours and quack theories on fake cures of the epidemic, Modi asserted till now no cure or vaccine has been found for the infection, which is why it is incumbent upon the people to take as much precaution as possible.
Modi said that in the current atmosphere of apprehension, there may be times when "our expectations as citizens remain unfulfilled; still, this crisis is so grave that despite these difficulties, we must face it with firm determination and focus all our energies towards protecting ourselves from the coronavirus".