Modi seeks ‘forgiveness’ from India’s poor over coronavirus lockdown
NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologised to the public on Sunday for imposing a three-week national lockdown, calling it harsh but “needed to win” the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
“I apologise for taking these harsh steps that have caused difficulties in your lives, especially the poor people,” Modi said in his monthly address, broadcast by state radio. “I know some of you will be angry with me. But these tough measures were needed to win this battle.”
The unprecedented lockdown order, which came into effect on Wednesday to keep India’s 1.3 billion people at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies, is meant to prevent the spread of the virus from surging and overwhelming India’s already strained health care system.
Indian health officials have confirmed 867 cases of the coronavirus, including 25 deaths. Experts have said local spreading is inevitable in a country where tens of millions of people live in dense urban areas in cramped conditions with irregular access to clean water.
The lockdown has caused tens of thousands of people, mostly young male day labourers but also families, to flee their New Delhi homes, and has effectively put millions of Indians who live off daily earnings out of work.
Modi said on Sunday that he had “no choice but to make these decisions to fight the coronavirus”.
The lockdown — the world’s largest — risks heaping further hardship on the quarter of the population who live below the poverty line. – AP