NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi late Tuesday called on Indians to step up their efforts to battle the coronavirus so that fresh lockdowns are not necessary, as the vast nation reels from an explosion of cases and the capital runs dangerously short of oxygen supplies.
In his first address since the start of the record-breaking new wave of infections, Modi acknowledged that the nation of 1.3 billion people was “once again fighting a big fight”.
“The situation was under control till a few weeks back, and then this second corona wave came like a storm,” the Indian leader told the nation in a televised speech.
“It is a big challenge but we have to — together, with our courage and determination — overcome it... We have to avoid lockdowns and we need to focus on mini containment zones instead.”
India has been struggling to rein in its raging outbreak, with hospitals running out of beds and regional governments forced to reimpose economically painful restrictions.
The South Asian nation has recorded more than three million new infections and 18,000 deaths this month, bringing its caseload to the world’s second-highest, after the United States. Its capital and worst-hit city New Delhi entered a week-long lockdown on Monday, with parks, cinemas and malls closed.
Maharashtra state, the epicentre of the recent surge and home to financial capital Mumbai, on Tuesday further tightened restrictions on grocery shops and home deliveries. All non-essential shops and malls in the western state are currently shut until May 1.
Uttar Pradesh, home to some 240 million people, on Tuesday announced a weekend lockdown from Friday evening, whilst Telangana state in the south became the latest to impose a night curfew.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who on Tuesday went into self-isolation after his wife tested positive, called on the national government to supply the capital with oxygen amid a severe shortage.
The huge surge in infections saw the United States update its travel advisory for India, after the State Department announced Monday it would apply “do not travel” guidance to about 80 percent of countries worldwide, citing the unprecedented risk posed by the pandemic.
“Even fully vaccinated travelers... should avoid all travel to India,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Singapore also boosted restrictions on arrivals from India Tuesday, adding a week to the previously required 14-day quarantine period.