World

Coronavirus: PM Modi tells Indians to save themselves by staying home

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Streets were deserted in the Indian capital yesterday and office buildings shuttered as a lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus began and Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to stay at home and save themselves.

India has reported 415 cases of the coronavirus and seven deaths, but health experts have warned a big jump could be imminent, which would overwhelm the underfunded and crumbling public health infrastructure.

Mr Modi said many Indians were not taking the lockdown seriously.

"Please save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously," he tweeted.

The lockdown in the capital of more than 18 million people will last for the rest of the month.

BANNED

The authorities banned gatherings of more than five people in several of India's states including Maharashtra in the west, which has had the highest number of cases. They warned of legal action against people violating the ban.

In the financial hub of Mumbai, the state capital, suburban trains, which usually carry eight million people a day, were suspended until the end of the month. Bus services were limited to people in essential services such as healthcare.

Newspapers cancelled print runs in Mumbai after vendors refused to distribute them due to worries about the virus, which emerged in China late last year and has spread worldwide.

Globally, cases exceed 325,000 with more than 14,000 deaths.

Mr Muhammed Nizam, who runs a meat shop in an alley in Delhi's Nizamuddin neighbourhood, said supplies were falling and he had to raise prices.

"The price of chicken had fallen earlier because people stopped buying it fearing the virus was being spread through it.

"But now I don't have any chicken left. Everything's been sold," he said.

India also will ground all domestic passenger flights from tomorrow, the government said, as more states ordered lockdowns.

India has already banned incoming international flights and sealed most land borders.

The government information bureau said only cargo flights will be allowed. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD