Cautioning people against any complacency in dealing with COVID-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday emphasized individual "determination" and "restraint through social distancing" in fighting the global pandemic and called for "Janta curfew" on Sunday to prepare for challenges of the future.
Addressing the nation, Modi said that the government has decided to constitute an Economic Response Task Force under Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to ensure that steps are taken to deal with economic difficulties caused by the threat of the spread of coronavirus were effectively implemented. He urged people not to resort to panic-buying and assured that the government was working to ensure that there is no shortage of essential commodities.
He also urged people to stay at home and work from home to the extent possible and not to go to hospitals for routine checkups.
He called upon the people to express their gratitude at 5 pm during Janata curfew to people who were working tirelessly in medical and service-oriented professions in the time of difficulty.
In his televised address which lasted about 30 minutes, the Prime Minister said the best way to deal with COVID-19 was self-protection as there was no known cure of the disease which has spread to a large number of countries.
He said that 130 crore people of the country had fought with determination to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the last two months and taken necessary precautions.
"But for some time, it is appearing that we are away from crisis and everything is alright. This thinking of feeling assured about a global pandemic is not right. It is very essential for every Indian to stay alert," he said.
Modi said that people have never disappointed him whenever he has asked for something and it is their blessing due to which efforts are successful.
"I have come today to ask for something. I need a few weeks of yours, I need your time," he said.
The Prime Minister said science has not been able to find a cure to the pandemic and there is no vaccine available. "It is natural that concerns will grow in this situation," he said.
Noting that some countries have seen almost an explosion of coronavirus cases after a few initial days, he said, "Indian government is keeping a close watch on the track record of the spread of coronavirus."
Modi said that the impact of coronavirus is visible in big and developed countries and it will be wrong to assume that India will not be impacted.
"Hence two things are needed to fight the pandemic - determination and restraint," he said.
"Today 130 crore Indians will have to further strengthen their resolve that they will follow their duties as citizens and follow directions of central and state governments to check the spread of the pandemic," he said.
"We have to resolve that we will protect ourselves from getting affected and protect others also. In such global pandemic, only one mantra works - we are healthy, the world is healthy. Today when there is no cure to the disease, it is very essential to keep oneself healthy. To protect oneself from the disease and to stay healthy restraint is necessary and the way of restraint is to not be part of the crowd, to try not to come out of the home. Today what is being described as social distancing is very essential in the time of coronavirus global pandemic," Modi added.
Modi urged people not to step out of their homes for the next few weeks unless it is very essential.
"To the extent possible, do your work whether it is related to business or office from home," he said.
He said that senior citizens, people above 65 years in age should not step out of their houses for the next few weeks.
Modi recalled that there were blackouts during wars in the past and papers were pasted on windows so that light does not go out. He said people also kept a vigil.
"Today, I am seeking one more support from every citizen. It is Janta Curfew - a curfew for the people and imposed by people themselves," he said.
The Prime Minister said that coming Sunday on March 22, people should follow Janta curfew from 7 am to 9 pm.
"Our this effort on March 22 will be a symbol of our restraint and following our duty in the interest of the nation. The success of Janta Curfew, its experience will prepare us for future challenges," he said.
The Prime Minister said every person should try and phone 10 other people to inform them of Janta Curfew and ways to protect oneself from coronavirus.
"The Janta Curfew will be like a test for us and the country. It is time to see and test how India is prepared to fight the global pandemic," he said.
The Prime Minister said he needs one more cooperation from people on March 22 during Janta curfew and asked people to express their gratitude to lakhs of people were working at airports, hospitals and performing duties related to transportation and sanitation.
He said government employees, police and media were also doing their duties in service of others even though they face the risk of being infected.
"I want that on March 22, we express our gratitude to them. At 5 pm on Sunday, we should stand on doors, balconies, windows of our homes and express our gratitude for five minutes," he said, adding that people can do so by clapping or ringing bells.
He said the local administrations all over the country should sound sirens at 5 pm.
Noting that the country's tradition was of service, he urged people to fully express their feelings of gratitude.
He said at this time of difficulty, people will also have to keep in mind that the pressure on essential services and hospitals is growing by the day and appealed to them not to go to hospitals for routine check-ups.
Modi said the committee under the Finance Minister has been constituted to deal with economic challenges posed by the pandemic.
"This task force will ensure that whatever steps are taken to tide over economic difficulties are implemented effectively," he said.
Noting that the middle class, lower-middle class and the poor sections had been economically impacted by the coronavirus, Modi appealed to industrialists and those in the high-income group to take care of economic interests of those who work for them.
Asking people not to go for hoarding or resort to "panic buying", he said all steps are being taken that there is no shortage of essentials such as milk, food products and medicines.
He said every citizen has for the past two months considered the difficulty as his own difficulty and done whatever he could for the country and society.
"I have faith that in the coming days, you will continue to discharge your responsibilities," the Prime Minister said, adding that difficulties come and rumours are also sought to be spread.
Referring to Navratri which starts next week, he said it was a festival to worship "shakti" and wished that the country moves ahead with full power. (ANI)