Indian police struggle to enforce lockdown of 1.3bn people

Indian police struggle to enforce lockdown of 1.3bn people

Indians are struggling to comply with the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown as the government began the gargantuan task of keeping 1.3 billion people indoors.

Official assurances that essentials would not run out clashed with people’s fears that the disease toll could soon worsen, hitting food and other critical supplies.

In five days, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has jumped from about 200 to 519, and experts say the real toll is likely to be much higher because of insufficient testing.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

On Tuesday, prime minister Narendra Modi announced a three-week countrywide lockdown covering nearly a fifth of the world’s population “to save India and Indians”.

He said the lockdown would be “total”, but officials released advisories explaining that medical, law enforcement, media and other sectors were exempted and that stores selling food and other essentials would remain open.

Television images from many cities and towns showed closed markets and offices. Normally bustling railway stations stood empty, and joggers awkwardly avoided each other to maintain safe distances.

A railway platform in Prayagra (Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP)
A railway platform in Prayagra (Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP)

Mr Modi’s speech triggered panic buying as online retailers Amazon and Big Basket, an Indian grocery delivery service, began cancelling previously placed orders and said they had no delivery slots available.

That spurred people to risk fines and other penalties by going out to shop at local stores.

Although the lockdown made provision for people to leave their homes to buy food, TV news and social media showed police striking would-be shoppers in the streets with batons in the southern state of Kerala, the financial hub of Mumbai and New Delhi.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Wednesday was the start of the Hindu new year, according to an ancient lunar calendar, and the beginning of a nine-day holiday in which Hindus normally perform daily rituals at temples. The lockdown order bans religious gatherings and instructs places of worship to close.

Mr Modi acknowledged the celebrations “will not be like they are usually but they will strengthen our resolve to overcome our circumstances”.

“May we all come together to win the important battle that the nation faces against Covid-19,” he said.

Some Indians, including a member of Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, defied the lockdown – which also bans public gatherings of five or more – and attended temple ceremonies.

Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, prayed to a statue of Lord Ram at a makeshift temple in Ayodhya with about 100 other people.

Even as he ventured outside, Awanish Awasthi, an Uttar Pradesh government spokesman, told reporters in Lucknow that the lockdown was being strictly enforced in the state.

He said cases had been brought against 5,590 people for violating orders to stay at home, but denied allegations of police excesses.

In recent days, India had gradually expanded stay-at-home orders, banned international and domestic flights and suspended passenger service on its extensive rail system until March 31.

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

More on this topic

Dominic Raab to lead daily Covid-19 meeting in Boris' absence as British PM ‘very likely’ to need ventilatorDominic Raab to lead daily Covid-19 meeting in Boris' absence as British PM ‘very likely’ to need ventilator

'He’s in our prayers tonight': Simon Coveney offers well wishes to Boris Johnson 'He’s in our prayers tonight': Simon Coveney offers well wishes to Boris Johnson

Covid-19: Majority of coronavirus deaths are male, figures showCovid-19: Majority of coronavirus deaths are male, figures show

British doctors without PPE report being ‘bullied and shamed’ into treating patientsBritish doctors without PPE report being ‘bullied and shamed’ into treating patients