NEW DELHI/MUMBAI, March 22 - Millions of people across the country stayed indoors on Sunday in an unprecedented and overwhelming response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi�s appeal for a �Janata Curfew� to help check the spread of coronavirus, coming out briefly at 5 pm to show gratitude to health and other essential service providers with sounds of bells, conches and claps.
The Prime Minister thanked the people but said it was the start of a long battle, as he urged them to follow social distancing to stop the chain of transmission of coronavirus which has infected 360 people and claimed seven lives in India.
Be it Mumbai, known as the city that never sleeps, Patna or Ahmedabad, life came to a standstill in the country as roads, railway stations and airports wore a deserted look and markets and establishments except those dealing in essential goods and services remained shut during the 14-hour self-imposed curfew that started at 7 am.
In the national capital, roads which are usually chock-a-block had only a few private vehicles and buses plying. The Delhi Police gave flowers to people who stepped out of their homes, requesting them to stay indoors. In some parts, policemen also handed out masks and sanitisers to spread awareness about coronavirus.
As the clock struck 5, the air reverberated with a medley of sounds from bells, conches and beating of metal plates, with people coming out in balconies, lawns and terrace of their homes to express appreciation for medical and other staff who are on the frontline of the battle against the coronavirus.
From children to the elderly, common people to VIPs, residents of metropolitan cities to villages, all responded to Prime Minister Modi�s appeal to show gratitude to doctors, paramedics, police and other personnel associated with essential services.
Many took positions with their choice of instruments, including metal plates or whatever kitchen utensils they could get, while some played the sounds of conches and bells on their phones and music systems. Police sirens too also heard.
People also shared videos on social media on the response of residents in their areas.
Taking to Twitter, Modi said it is an expression of gratitude by the people and also the sound of the bugle declaring the long battle ahead.
�With this resolve and patience, let�s restrict (social distancing) ourselves,� Modi tweeted in Hindi with the hashtag �Janata Curfew�.
�Today�s Janata Curfew may end at 9.00 pm, but this does not mean we start celebrating... it is the beginning of a long battle,� he said.
�Today countrymen have told that we are capable, and once we decide we can take on any challenge together,� he said in a series of tweets.
He urged the people living in areas which are under lockdown not to venture out of their houses.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the lockdown in Delhi will be from March 23 on March 31.
Commercial capital Mumbai, which is not new to natural and man-made disasters, observed a shutdown on Sunday unlike any. The iconic Gateway of India, Juhu beach and the Bandra-Worli sealink, which are otherwise always bustling with activity, wore a desolate look.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and other suburban train stations presented an uncommon sight of being empty as people stayed indoors to support the curfew. � PTI