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Mumbai: Amidst increasing threat of local and community transmission of coronavirus spread, Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday announced a nationwide lockdown from midnight for the next 21 days. "

From midnight, there will be a total lockdown in the entire country. It is like a curfew, tougher than the Janata Curfew," the Prime Minister said in his address to the nation.

He urged Indians to forget what stepping out feels like; otherwise, the entire country will go back 21 years, he warned. "There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes," Modi said and announced an emergency financial package of Rs 15,000 crore for healthcare.

The announcement comes close on the heels of more than 500 country-wide coronavirus cases and ten deaths. Giving the rationale for the lockdown, he pointed out how most capable nations like the United States had become helpless despite having the best health services.

\Their two months of experience showed that the only solution to the pandemic is social distancing, which alone can break the cycle of this dreaded disease.

He warned that a little carelessness on the part of the people would put the entire country and their own families into a catastrophic situation for which India will have to pay a very heavy price.

At the same time, Modi tried to dispel fears and tweeted ‘‘No need to panic, essential items, medicines to be available.’’ But he did not elaborate except saying that the Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this.

‘‘Together, we will fight COVID-19 and create a healthier India," he noted. Modi said India was at a critical stage where even a single misstep could lead to the deadly virus spreading like wildfire.

"Some think social distancing is only for patients. That's not correct. Social distancing is the only way to fight the virus. It is for every citizen, every family, every member, even for the Prime Minister," he noted.

To substantiate his argument, Modi displayed a poster with a sketch which said: ‘Corona means 'Koi Road Par Na Nikle’ (No one should come out on roads)".

"I am confident that every citizen in this time of crisis will follow the directions of the government and local administration. 21 days of lockdown is a long time but this is important for your safety and the safety of your family," said Modi.

"Experts also say that if a person is infected today, it takes many days for them to display symptoms, they unknowingly infect all who come in contact with them in this period. A single infected person can infect hundreds in weeks, it spreads like fire," the PM noted. However, Modi warned people against rumours.

"Friends, you should be cautious as knowingly or annoyingly many times rumours are also spread. I appeal to you not to believe in such rumours and superstitions as it is necessary that the suggestions and directions given by the central government, the state government and the medical fraternity are followed," he said.

Modi hailed the private sector and asked it to work shoulder to shoulder and stand with the people of this country in this time of crisis and pandemic.

Private hospitals and private labs are coming forward to work with the government in these challenging times, he added. "A number of people are coming forward to help them.

We are making efforts to not only give priority to what is required for daily life but also what is required for protecting everyone's life. The government has taken decisions on the advice and suggestions of the WHO, the medical and scientific institutes and health experts," said PM Modi.

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