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India Locks Down 80 Cities and Districts to Mitigate COVID-19 Spread

More than 80 cities and districts across India—including New Delhi—have been placed under stringent lockdown after coronavirus cases were detected there, Al Jazeera reports. The lockdown affects approximately 10 percent of India’s population.

“State governments will issue orders allowing only essential services to operate in about 75 districts with confirmed COVID-19 cases or casualties,” a home ministry official said on Sunday in New Delhi. The state shutdowns came during a 14-hour voluntary curfew; however, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Monday that many Indians were not taking the lockdown seriously. While streets were largely deserted during the curfew, train stations were packed as migrant workers tried to return home.

Under the official lockdown, all inter-state buses are cancelled, as well as railway and metro services, until at least 31 March. All domestic flights will be grounded. Schools, entertainment facilities, and monuments are closed. Authorities banned gatherings of more than five people in several states, warning of legal action if people violate the prohibition.

New Delhi will seal its land borders starting today, and the city will close shops and private sector offices until 31 March. Banks have reduced office staff and asked customers to switch to online transactions, The Washington Post reports.

So far, India has confirmed 417 cases of coronavirus with seven deaths. According to Al Jazeera, however, a shortage of testing facilities could be hiding the pandemic’s reach in India, which has a population of more than 1.3 billion people.

Many of the current cases in India were linked to foreign travel, but “indigenous spread of the disease is considered inevitable in India, where tens of millions live in dense urban areas with irregular access to clean water,” The Washington Post reports.

Learn more about the coronavirus pandemic and resources for security professionals on the ASIS International Disease Outbreak: Security Resources page.