India to Halt International Flights; Modi Urges Citizens to Stay Home in CCP Virus Fight

March 20, 2020 Updated: March 20, 2020
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NEW DELHI/COLOMBO, Sri Lanka—Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to citizens to stay home and avoid panic buying, even as India outlined plans to halt all international flights and rushed to stem the spread of the CCP virus in the country.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mishandling allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

In a late-night address to the nation on March 19, Modi said people should leave “their homes only if essential” and asked the nation to self-observe an all-day curfew on March 22.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

Modi’s plea came shortly after India said it plans to halt any incoming international flights from landing in the country as of 4 p.m. New York time on March 22.

Modi also assured Indians that there would be no shortage of essential goods. His appeal came as retailers said they were struggling to keep up with demand as consumers rush to stockpile supplies.

“We are seeing unprecedented order volumes in all cities in India,” said Hari Menon, chief executive of online grocery retailer BigBasket.

Densely populated South Asia has so far been relatively unscathed compared to many other parts of the world.

But new COVID-19 cases in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are all accelerating, with the total across the region nearing 700; six people have died.

Authorities worry that these countries could be especially at risk should the virus begin to spread locally, due to poor health facilities and infrastructure.

The spread of the virus continued to rattle markets across the region. The Indian and Sri Lankan currencies both fell to record lows against the dollar on March 19, while Pakistan’s main stock index hit its lowest level in five years.

“The pandemic has severely affected the economy,” said Modi, adding that he has set up a task force to assess the impact.

Election Shelved

Sri Lanka said on March 19 it would delay parliamentary elections that had been scheduled for April 25.

Earlier this week, the island nation also sealed its borders and imposed a curfew in some areas. There have been 59 confirmed cases in Sri Lanka.

In a bid to stem a sharp slide in the Sri Lankan rupee, the nation’s central bank on March 19 ordered all banks to suspend funding imports of motor vehicles and non-essential goods.

Meanwhile, confirmed cases in Afghanistan remained static at 22 on March 19, despite what experts say is a brewing crisis in the war-torn nation, especially in Herat province, which borders Iran—one of the worst affected countries.

Thousands have been crossing daily across the porous border in that region, with little testing being done on those entering the country, according to an official source.

The number of confirmed cases in Pakistan surged on March 19 to 410. The increase is being driven by pilgrims returning from Iran. Some officials fear with thousands of pilgrims yet to be tested, cases could soar further in the coming days.

Masks Exports Banned

India late on March 19 also banned the export of surgical masks, ventilators, and textiles used for masks and overalls, while several areas introduced curbs on gatherings as coronavirus cases rose to 173.

Late on March 18, the state of Rajasthan invoked colonial-era laws that prevent the unlawful assembly of four or more people—powers more often used to quell riots.

Similar restrictions were introduced in Noida, a satellite city of New Delhi. India’s financial hub of Mumbai expanded a partial shutdown of offices to government buildings on March 19, with at least half the staff ordered to work from home.

In Indian-ruled Kashmir, claimed in whole but ruled in part by both India and Pakistan, dozens of people told Reuters they had been prevented from leaving their neighborhoods by police.

Since emerging late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the flu-like disease has infected more than 218,000 people and killed nearly 9,000.

By Zeba Siddiqui & Waruna Karunatilake. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.