Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered a 21-day lockdown of the country’s 1.3 billion people to try to protect the world’s second-most populous country from the coronavirus.
Health researchers have warned that more than a million people in India could be infected with the coronavirus by mid-May, prompting the government to shut down all air and train travel, businesses and schools.
Mr Modi went further on Tuesday, saying nobody in the world’s biggest democracy will be allowed to leave their homes for the next three weeks from midnight that day.
“The only way to save ourselves from coronavirus is if we don’t leave our homes, whatever happens, we stay at home,” he said, in his second address to the nation within a week.
“Every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown,” he said, warning India would be set back decades if it didn’t shut down and fight the virus.
The order sparked panic buying in India, with scores of people turning up at shops in Delhi and Mumbai and elsewhere to buy essentials before the ban went into effect.
India has found 482 cases of the coronavirus and 10 people have died from the COVID-19 disease it causes.
However, alarm is growing across the region about prospects for its spread into impoverished communities and the ability of resource-starved public health sectors to cope.
The Indian government said essential services including supermarkets, petrol stations and banks will remain open.