After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday night that India will be put under a complete lockdown for 21 days from midnight, panic-stricken Indians began flooding grocery stores, prompting the government to issue a clarification.
According to a statement issued by the home ministry, shops that sell food, groceries, milk, meat and other provisions can remain open during the lockdown, along with medical shops. Banks and ATMs will also be functional during the lockdown, according to the statement.
Electricity, water, sanitation and other essential services will also be provided during the 21-day period. The statement also says that essential goods may be delivered through e-commerce websites.
As of Tuesday, India has reported 519 cases of COVID-19, and 10 people have died. While the country’s stretched public healthcare system has been battling the disease so far, a few recent cases have raised fears of community transmission.
Ironically, just a short while after Modi re-emphasised that social distancing was the only way to combat COVID-19, photos shared on social media showed people standing in long lines, close together, to stock up on essentials.
In his speech, Modi did not outline clearly that people could access food and groceries, setting off the panic. He also has not outlined any relief measures for poor Indians, raising concerns about their survival if they are forced to stay at home instead of working for three weeks.
The lack of clarity and the rush after the speech was similar to the panic that broke out after Modi’s infamous speech on demonetisation on 8 November 2016.