India

Scramble For Supplies As India's 21-Day Virus Lockdown Starts: 10 Points

Scramble For Supplies As India's 21-Day Virus Lockdown Starts: 10 Points

Coronavirus lockdown: Centre released guidelines that fair price shops will remain open

New Delhi: The world's largest shutdown began today with concerns about essential supplies and services after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a three-week lockdown to fight the coronavirus. "Forget about stepping out of your homes for the next 21 days," PM Modi said in a televised address to the nation. India has 562 cases of coronavirus or COVID-19, including nine deaths, according to the health ministry. Health experts have warned of an explosion of infections if harsh steps are not taken.

Here's your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:

  1. "To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family... every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown," the Prime Minister said, assuring that essential supplies would be maintained.

  2. Moments after that announcement, people in many states were seen rushing to the stores to stock up. People in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru were seen in images crowding around grocery stores. Many complained of soaring prices.

  3. Shops shut down, fearing action by the police amid confusion over what can stay open. As states shut their borders, long queues of trucks carrying milk, fruits and vegetables crawled on the highway.

  4. The Home Ministry put out rules asking states and Union Territories to keep a strict watch on rumours such as those claiming a shortage of food and other essential services and commodities.

  5. The government also released guidelines that said fair price shops and those dealing with food, groceries, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, animal fodder would remain open.

  6. Walmart Inc's Flipkart has suspended services and Amazon India's pantry service, which delivers groceries, has been stopped. Anthony Thomas, a worker at a small online milk delivery service, who normally distributes 150 litres of milk and groceries in Delhi each morning, said his employer had told him to stay home, according to Reuters.

  7. In Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said for essential commodities or medicines, people could call a helpline and also assured doorstep delivery. But many people complained that their calls were handled rudely.

  8. This morning, visuals from states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu showed shops finding their own way of ensuring social distancing - by marking well-spaced circles for customers to stand in while they waited in queues.

  9. The Congress party questioned PM Modi on early warnings about the pandemic in February, and how daily wage labourers would manage during the lockdown. "India will adhere to #lockdown But what's ur plan to address the huge issue of bread & butter & livelihood for millions? How will daily wagers, labourers... sustain for 21 days?" Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted.

  10. "The need of the hour is an economic package," said Madhura Swaminathan, head of the economic analysis unit of the Indian Statistical Institute in Bengaluru. "Asking people to stay at home is necessary, but that won't be enough for the majority of the population who cannot afford to sit at home without work and pay."