Janta curfew begins: PM Modi urges public to stay indoors

Empty streets reported in several cities as part of social distancing experiment

Gariahat-crossing-janta-curfew-Salil The normally-busy Gariahat crossing in Kolkata on Sunday morning | Salil Bera

At 7am on Sunday, the 'Janta curfew' began in India, as the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 315 by Saturday and the country attempts a mass-scale social distancing exercise to stem the further spread of the virus.

The curfew will last between 7am and 9pm on Sunday. While participation is voluntary, public transport will be also unavailable in certain cities, with passenger trains halted from all stations since midnight until 10pm. 3,700 trains have been cancelled. Trains that are already on run until 7am will be allowed to go to their destinations.

In addition, airlines IndiGo and GoAir said they would close nearly 1,000 flights on Sunday.

In Maharashtra, the Mumbai local trains will be closed for the general public and will run only for essential services; in Kerala, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced that public transport would come to a standstill; Karnataka will see reduced public transport as BMTC reduces operations and the Namma Metro shuts down; in Delhi too, metro services will be unavailable from 10am to 4pm. In addition, Rajasthan has become the first state in India to impose a complete lock down, with only essential services to be allowed to continue until March 31, after the case total in the state reached 25.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday requested people to join the 'Janata Curfew' to make the fight against the coronavirus a success.

"In a few minutes from now, the #JantaCurfew commences. Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against COVID-19 menace," the prime minister wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

He said the steps to be taken now will help in the times to come.

"Stay indoors and stay healthy," he said.

According to ANI, as of early Sunday morning, empty streets were reported in Hyderabad, Prayagraj, Kolkata, Chennai and Nagur.

As the 'Janata curfew' got underway at 7 am, people largely kept themselves indoor as part of the social distancing exercise to stop the spread of the virus and bare number of public transport vehicles plied on nearly empty roads, PTI reported.

All markets and establishments except those dealing in essential goods and services will be closed for the day.

In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said that 50 per cent of the buses will ply on roads on Sunday considering some people may have to travel due to an emergency.

Autos and taxis will, however, be off roads in the national capital as several unions including the Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh, Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union, Delhi Auto Taxi Transport Congress Union and Delhi Taxi Tourist Transport Association, have decided to join the 'Janata curfew'.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had also appealed to the people of the state to stay indoors on Sunday.

"Metro trains, roadways buses and city buses will not operate on Sunday," the statement said on behalf of the chief minister.

"To curb this infection, we are working on a war footing. Isolation wards have been set up in every district hospital and medical college. So far, 23 patients have been identified in the state, out of which nine have completely recovered. There is no need to panic, but prepare yourself to fight against this challenge," the UP chief minister had said in the statement. Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has asked chief secretaries of all states to ensure that the 'Janata Curfew' is observed properly and to see that local bodies, fire services, police and civil defence blow sirens or ring bells on Sunday evening to express gratitude towards those involved in tackling the disease.

In addition, at 5pm today, citizens are expected to take to their balconies and applaud the health workers who are striving to contain the outbreak in India.

Saturday saw the first reported case of COVID-19 in a north-eastern state, with a 4-year-old child testing positive in Jorhat in Assam.

With inputs from PTI

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