Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 1 April 2020

Follow lockdown order or police could shoot on sight, Indian minister warns

India on Wednesday was set to impose a compulsory curfew, telling its 1.3 billion inhabitants to stay at home

The leader of the Indian state of Telangana said he would call for people to be shot on sight if they did not obey its coronavirus curfew.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday before the full lockdown went into force, chief minister Chandrasekhar Rao called on residents to abide by the government’s order to stay at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, threatening them he would impose a 24-hour lockdown and urge the police and army to take drastic action if they did not comply.

“Don’t create a situation where the government is left with no option but to give shoot-at-sight orders to the police,” he said.

As of Wednesday, 562 people in India had tested positive for the coronavirus, but the number is believed to be far higher.

Mr Rao said that despite Sunday’s 14-hour lockdown – dubbed the ‘people’s curfew’ – to promote social distancing, many had ignored the directive and the state’s streets were also busy on Monday and Tuesday.

He said he was considering drafting in the military to help police enforce the order when it came in on Wednesday.

“A curfew would be implemented from 7pm to 6am and all shops should be closed by 6pm daily,” he said.

One option, he said, would be to close petrol stations to halt traffic.

The world’s largest democracy went under the world’s biggest lockdown on Wednesday, with India’s 1.3 billion people ordered to stay at home to prevent the pandemic overwhelming its fragile health care system, as it has done elsewhere.

Businesses bar those providing essential services, such as supermarkets, were shut. Normally bustling railway stations in New Delhi were deserted and streets that only hours before were jumbled with honking cars fell eerily silent, with only a trickle of pedestrians.

“Delhi looks like a ghost town,” said Nishank Gupta, a lawyer. “I have never seen the city so quiet before.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that if he didn’t take action now it could set the country back decades.

More than 423,000 people worldwide have been infected and almost 19,000 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

It is the latter cases – often requiring ventilators and specialist care – that threaten to overwhelm hospitals, which in several countries are already running short of critical equipment needed to treat patients alive and doctors and nurses safe.

Updated: March 25, 2020 12:55 PM

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