“Lockdown’’: that’s the word across newspaper headlines as multiple states across the country headed towards a complete lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The ‘janata curfew’ is the other big story of the day. On Sunday, people came out of their homes at 5 pm to thank, with a rousing round of applause and banging of thaalis, those who continue to serve amidst the health crisis.
The Hindu reports on the lockdown in over 80 districts across the country, while The Indian Express notes that ‘a billion hunker down’. Hindustan Times and The Times of India explain details of the lockdown in Delhi till 31 March and the functional services during this period.
The financial papers also note that India is in for a long haul after the ‘janata curfew’.
Read all about it below.
The front page of TOI explains what will be under lockdown in Delhi till 31 March while detailing that law and order officers, water, fire, electricity, groceries, ATMs, print and electronic media are some of the essential services exempted from the move.
The flap story states, ‘Delhi shuts, no movement of vehicles between city & NCR’. The paper reports, “People who come out to provide or avail of essential services will be allowed on their self-declaration,” the (Delhi government) order said. While “taxis, autos, e-rickshaws, rickshaws, buses and public transport facilities, including inter-state bus and Metro services, will be suspended. Only 25% of DTC buses will run.”
It also reports on weekend violence: ’17 security personnel killed in deadliest Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh in 3 yrs.’ Noting that it was the biggest death toll among the forces in three years in Chhattisgarh, TOI writes, “Maoists ambushed security forces in Elmaguda forest of Sukma district late Saturday, killing 17 of them, injuring 15 and looting a light machine gun and 12 AK47s.”
The lead story, ‘Officially or Unofficially, India in Lockdown’, says, “According to the health ministry, at least 82 districts in 23 states of the country were shut by 8pm on Sunday.” Along with this, in an unprecedented move the railways announced suspension of all passenger trains till 31 March.
Also sharing space on the front page is news that “the Covid-19 infection claimed three more lives in the country on Sunday, taking the toll from the disease to seven, even as states continued to report a high number of cases, which have now touched 400.”
‘A billion plus hunker down’ declares Express on the 14-hour-long janata curfew. The paper focuses on the restrictions imposed in 75 districts in 22 states and Union Territories till 31 March. “Delhi, Jharkhand, Punjab and Nagaland declared a statewide lockdown, exempting only essential services, while similar curbs were announced in a number of districts in Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal,” the report explains. There’s also a list of districts that will remain under lockdown on page 2.
Note that the photographs depict a deserted Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai and people in Noida applauding those fighting the virus threat
In another drastic step and “to shield crores of people from the risk of community transmission of the coronavirus, the government has suspended all passenger train operations across the country till March 31″. The report quotes government sources as saying that some of the “sanitised trains will be earmarked for isolation facilities — possibly two patients in one coach…”
Read the new installment in the series ‘The Corona Fighters’ — ‘Inside a Delhi screening lab: 100 tests a day, 17 hours at work, no family time’. The report focuses on one microbiology lab, which is “among the 11 across the country where tests are conducted on blood samples of suspected cases”.
Like TOI, Hindustan Times provides details about the lockdown in Delhi till 31 March.
Its flap story is crucial reading: ‘40,000 ventilators for 1.3bn people a worry’. The report states that “India has an estimated 40,000 working ventilators, a number experts said will be inadequate in case there is a surge in Covid-19 infections that, in approximately 5% of the cases, sends patients to intensive care units (ICU) with acute breathing problems.”
HT also highlights the experience of other countries: “China enforced a military-style lockdown once the threat posed by the Sars-Cov-2 virus became clear. Italy was slow to do so. Worse, Italians were lax in following whatever restrictions were put in place… Experts around the world believe the Italian experience proves the importance of containment measures (including isolating areas ravaged by the disease), curbs on free movement of people, even a comprehensive lockdown. On Sunday, India seemed headed in that direction.”
Another important Page 1 report is regarding private testing labs, ‘Pvt labs roped in, mass testing is still far away’. HT reports, “Six private laboratories are set to start testing for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) after receiving approvals from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Sunday, although the government has no immediate plans to allow walk-in testing of asymptomatic individuals without a history of foreign travel or contact with an infected person.”
Moving away from news only about the national capital, The Hindu’s lead story is ’80 districts in lockdown to contain virus spread’. The daily reports, “All train, metro and inter-state transport services across the country were suspended on Sunday till March 31 as the death toll from COVID-19 rose to seven nationwide, and the number of confirmed cases stood at 396.”
Reporting on the janata curfew, Hindu reports, ‘PM thanks people for staying indoors, says battle not over.’
“Just before 5 p.m., sirens sounded in several cities and people came out onto the roads and balconies clapping their hands and banging steel plates to express gratitude to those providing essential services during this crisis. In many places, conch shells sounded as people milled around.”
The New Indian Express leads with a terrifying analogy in ‘Shades of Wuhan in parts of India’, which lists the restrictions imposed across several states. “With three more coronavirus deaths being reported on Sunday — one each from Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra — and the successful experiment of janata curfew across the country, the Centre advised states to lock down all virus-affected districts immediately to break the chain of transmission,” the report notes. There’s also a helpful graphic listing “what’s closed”, “what’s open”, “states shut”, and “manufacturing halts”.
Restrictions have also been imposed across Chennai, Kanchi and Erode in Tamil Nadu from today and a detailed order from the State government “is expected listing what activities will be permitted”.
The Tribune also leads with a report about the ‘Clampdown on 82 Covid-hit districts’. “The decision to extend the voluntary Janata Curfew into a shutdown was taken to ensure social distancing between people which, according to the experts, is the only way to flatten the growing curve of virus transmission,” the report notes.
There’s also an exclusive report about a “number of Chief Ministers urging the Centre to put off the Census-NPR exercise in view of the lockdown in several parts of the country”. The report quotes sources as it notes that the government is actively considering “a postponement of the exercise”.
The Economic Times in its report — ‘Manufacturing Grinds to a Halt’— explains the economic impact of the lockdown. “Automakers, smartphone makers, consumer electronic firms, appliance majors and many others have ordered shutdowns till month-end,” the report explains.
Read the report about how “India’s biggest consumer goods companies are ramping up production to meet the steep rise in demand”. “Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies including Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Parle, Amul and Godrej said production has been hiked to ensure there are no shortages amid panic buying,” the report notes.
There’s an interesting anchor piece about how e-commerce operators “were forced to cancel or reschedule lakhs of orders for essential goods such as food, groceries and medicines across several cities on Sunday”. This is because “local authorities and the police ordered them to shut warehouses, blocked trucks carrying supplies and dissuaded delivery agents from moving around on the streets”.
Mint refers to the sweeping restrictions as ‘The Great Indian Fight Back’. “The decisions were taken at a meeting convened by cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba on Sunday morning, with chief secretaries of all states and the principal secretary to the prime minister,” the report notes.
Also, `Anand Mahindra offers to make ventilators’, is an important report as ventilators are the need of the hour at hospitals.
Read the important story about how “daily wagers are finding it difficult to make ends meet” in the wake of this crisis. This will have a drastic impact as “more than 90% of the country’s workforce is estimated to be in the informal sector”. “The crisis has led to a mass exodus of migrant labour to villages,” the report notes.
The anchor piece looks at whether the dip in markets is because of the buyback flurry “point to bottoming of markets“. The report highlights, “With all the uncertainty post the spread of Covid-19, investors are struggling to figure out where things will settle in terms of impact on earnings and return ratios”.
Business Standard has more bad news: ‘Investors brace for more pain‘ as “selling pressure could extend with India entering a virtual shutdown phase to contain the spread of COVID-19”. “Already, foreign portfolio investors’ selloff in March hit a record of $6.24 billion (Rs 46,200 crore),” the report says noting that it is in excess of $4.4 billion outflows seen during the financial crisis in 2008.
The anchor piece is about the likely drop in fuel sales because of the COVID-19 restrictions. “The decline in purchases of petrol, diesel and jet fuel is set to dampen the annual consumption figures of the current financial year and also 2020-21,” the report notes.