By Sarwar Kashani
New Delhi, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday urged people to observe a day-long civil curfew to fight the coronavirus pandemic as the world’s second-most populous country scrambles to prevent community transmission.
In a televised address to the nation, Modi asked all his countrymen to step out of their homes only when necessary and follow the self- imposed nationwide “people’s curfew” from 7 am to 9 pm on Sunday as a symbolic social distancing measure.
“During this curfew, we shall neither leave our homes nor get onto the streets or roam about our localities. Only those associated with emergency and essential services will leave their homes.
According to the official data, India spends only 3.6 percent of its GDP on public health as compared to major economies like the United States (17 percent), Germany (11 percent) and the United Kingdom (nearly 10).
India also has just 0.5 hospital beds and 0.8 doctors for every 1,000 people. The World Health Organization recommends an average of at least five beds.
The WHO also recommends one doctor for every 1,000 citizens.
The so-called curfew “will be a symbol of our effort, of our self-restraint, and our resolve to fulfill our duty in service of the nation. The success of a people’s curfew on Mar. 22, and the experience gained from it, will also prepare us for our upcoming challenges.” said Modi,
It will also allow “to see and test how prepared India is for fighting off a corona like global pandemic”.
Modi said social distancing was “important and effective” to contain the outbreak of the disease which has claimed four lives and infected over 170 people, a small fraction of the country’s over 1.3 billion population, according to official figures.
“Please stay at home. Work from home to the extent possible. Please refrain from non-essential gathering and get out of the house only when it is extremely necessary,” Modi said.
“It is wrong to assume that coronavirus will not impact us. The entire world at this point is going through a serious crisis. Normally, any calamity is limited to some nations, but this crisis has spread across the world.”
However, Modi didn’t announce any big policy measure to battle a possible spread of the virus in a country with questionably inadequate medical infrastructure.
There are only 52 medical centers that can test for the coronavirus despite growing fears of community transmission of the virus in the densely populated country where people, in both urban as well as rural areas, live almost face-to-face.
According to health ministry data, India has so far tested around five suspects per million people as compared to over 4,800 people per million in South Korea and over 1,000 in Italy.
When the disease showed the first signs in early February in the country, the authorities swiftly moved to limit inbound foreign travel and surveillance of people who had traveled from affected countries.
The country has also closed most schools, and entertainment facilities, including theatres. EFE-EPA