India launched a 14-hour curfew on Sunday to limit the rapidly spreading coronavirus epidemic in the country, where so far 315 people have contracted the disease.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech to the nation last week urged citizens to stay inside from 01:30 GMT to 15:30 GMT – a measure which he said would be a crucial test for a country to assess its capacities to fight the pandemic.
“Let’s all be part of this curfew, which will greatly strengthen the fight against the COVID-19 threat,” Modi tweeted a few minutes before the start of the curfew. “The steps we are taking now will help us in the times to come,” he said in the tweet.
Health experts have said that cases in India have increased at a rate seen during the early stages of the epidemic in other countries, which have subsequently reported an exponential increase in infections.
Several Indian states have announced measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Four cities in the state of Gujarat, in Modi, declared their complete closure until March 25.
Its neighboring desert state, Rajasthan, ordered a closure until March 31, while the eastern and central states suspended interstate bus transportation to prevent the exodus of daily workers from urban centers to villages.
The heads of state urged citizens not to rush into villages, to avoid crowding trains and buses to prevent the spread of the virus. Tensions have increased, however, with angry workers demonstrating at some bus stations against the sudden shutdown of basic transportation services.
Private events, such as weddings and local elections have been canceled. The federal government accelerated the production of masks and allowed manufacturers of deodorants to make disinfectants.
Modi asked the citizens to stand at the balconies and near the windows on Sunday evening to applaud, ring the bell to admire the emergency personnel and the sanitation workers who are on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus.