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First day of ‘self-curfew’ in India: New Delhi relies on isolation-trick to dodge coronavirus — enough after 100s infected?

India’s citizens appear to be standing behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to “isolate” themselves to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but there is fear that not enough was done to protect its population of 1.3 billion.

For the moment, Modi’s message for citizens to “stay indoors” is directed at residents of 80 districts in 22 states, which have officially been “shut down.” India has crossed the 300-patient figure from the coronavirus. This figure, if the examples set by the rest of the world are anything to go by, could shoot skywards in the coming days.

Mumbai residents bang utensils from balcony to cheer for workers fighting against coronavirus © REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

India is stretching itself thin to buck this trend. Trains have stopped running, and New Delhi, the nation’s capital, is now formally under curfew. Most states are shutting down shops, entertainment malls, restaurants, metros, and other non-essential businesses to ensure people stay indoors. Only medical facilities and grocery stores are allowed to remain in operation.

Fearing the worst

India’s health ministry held a press conference on Sunday and revealed they are mostly using antiviral drugs to combat the virus.

Schools are being converted into quarantine-wards, and medical staff in the business of testing suspected cases are complaining about inadequate protection. India would lose this battle if its medical personnel are not properly protected.

A committed, aware citizenry is India’s best bet to stop the spread of the disease at this point. And there is no better man than Modi for the task as millions swear by him. His administration is holding meetings with heads of other states to find real solutions to the situation.

States are increasingly offering money and food to aid India’s poor, as many have been left without a formal job and now are shunned by the shops and householders who usually employ them.

For the moment, the nation is standing strong. Families are helping neighbors they hadn’t previously noticed, and Indian flags are being unfurled on balconies and rooftops. Citizens even left their self-imposed isolation on Sunday and took to the streets with pots and pans, conch-shells and bells at an appointed hour to extol India’s medical professionals working on the frontlines to combat COVID-19.