NEW DELHI: The Indian government said on Thursday that most people will have to stay at home for several weeks to help the country fight the Covid-19 pandemic. International flights will be banned for a week from Saturday and there will be a one-day curfew on Sunday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on the 1.3-billion Indians in a nationwide address to observe a "Janata (civil) curfew" on Sunday – from 7am to 9pm – as he warned that the deadly virus could spread further.
"No-one should leave their homes, roam around the streets or in their neighbourhoods... This self-imposed curfew attempt will be a strong symbol to show self-restraint in the interest of the country," he said.
The one-day effort will help "prepare us for future challenges," he added.
The government says there have been 173 infections and four deaths but the public is increasingly anxious and there has been a rush on food stores and essential supplies.
Modi warned the public not to be complacent, pointing out that there had been an "explosion" in the number of cases worldwide.
"We are a developing country and we cannot say that it won't impact India," he said.
'Most will have to stay home'
Most people, except those in essential services, will have to stay home for several weeks, he added, without giving a timeframe.
"If you feel you won't be affected or infected, you are wrong," Modi said. "You will be endangering your family and the community and I request every citizen to stay home for the next few weeks."
The 69-year-old called on Indians to thank medical personnel and other emergency providers by clapping for five minutes at 5pm on Sunday, and for employers not cut employees' pay.
The 29-minute address came hours after the government said no international flights would be allowed to land in India for one week after 0000 GMT Saturday into Sunday at the port of departure.
'Make staff work from home'
States were also directed by the government to force companies to make staff work from home.
New Delhi has already suspended the visas of all foreign tourists and barred passengers of flights from the worst-hit European nations.
Travellers from several countries are also subject to a 14-day quarantine when they arrive in India.
Most schools and entertainment facilities, including cinemas, have already been shut across India, the world's second-most populous country.
The Taj Mahal and other monuments have also been closed to visitors.