India’s PM Narendra Modi has announced that a nationwide lockdown will be imposed on March 24 in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The restrictions will apply from midnight local time and will be enforced for 21 days.
The prime minister said in a TV address: “There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes.”
India – which has a population of 1.3 billion – joins a growing list of countries that have imposed similar measures.
Nearly 400,000 people have tested positive for the virus worldwide, and around 17,000 have died.
The new measures in India follow a sharp increase in cases in recent days. There have been 519 confirmed cases in the country and 10 reported deaths.
PM Narendra Modi said: “The entire country will be in lockdown, total lockdown.”
He added: “To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family… every street, every neighborhood is being put under lockdown.”
Narendra Modi warned that if India does not “handle these 21 days well, then our country… will go backwards by 21 years”.
“This is a curfew,” he said.
“We will have to pay the economic cost of this but [it] is the responsibility of everyone.”
Under the new measures, all non-essential businesses will be closed but hospitals and other medical facilities will continue to function as normal.
Schools and universities will remain shut and almost all public gatherings will be banned.
In his address, PM Modi also stressed that the 21 day lockdown was “very necessary to break the chain of coronavirus”. He emphasized the seriousness of the situation and said that even developed countries had faced problems in combating it. He also said that “social distancing was the only way to stop” the virus spreading.
The prime minister announced that nearly $2 billion would be made available to boost India’s health infrastructure.
He called on people not to “spread rumors” and to follow instructions.
The prime minister’s announcement came after several Indian states introduced measures of their own, such as travel restrictions and the closure of non-essential services.
India has already issued a ban on international arrivals and grounded domestic flights. The country’s rail network has also suspended most passenger services.