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India orders 1.3B people into 21-day lockdown; Wuhan to lift restrictions

By
Darryl Coote & Don Jacobson
Residents wear protective face masks while visiting a shopping area in Beijing, China, on Tuesday. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Residents wear protective face masks while visiting a shopping area in Beijing, China, on Tuesday. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

March 24 (UPI) -- The government of India on Tuesday ordered a 21-day national coronavirus-related lockdown -- a move that will restrict movements for an estimated 1.3 billion people.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a "total lockdown" in a nationally broadcast address Tuesday. There are more than 500 cases across India and at least 10 deaths.

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"There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes," Modi said, also announcing a $150 billion emergency financial package.

"If we are not able to manage the upcoming 21 days [of a complete lockdown], we will be pushed back 21 years," Modi warned.

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"Forget about leaving home in the next 21 days. ... You will invite the virus home."

As of Tuesday evening, there were more than 417,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide, according to trackers at Johns Hopkins University. More than 18,600 patients have died and 107,200 have recovered.

Earlier Tuesday, Chinese officials said beginning next month they will lift strict lockdown measures in Wuhan city, which was where the virus first emerged in December. Coronavirus cases in Wuhan and across China have steadily fallen in the last several days.

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Officials said the lockdown in Wuhan will be lifted on April 8, and will apply to all residents who are cleared by a doctor.

More than half of all Chinese cases and 77 percent of its deaths were recorded in Wuhan, according to Beijing's National Health Commission. After five straight days of no new local cases, officials in Wuhan reported one additional. The vast majority of new cases across China have been imported, it added.

Elsewhere in Thailand, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he will declare a national emergency on Thursday.

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Restrictions will be issued on "an ongoing basis to reduce the epidemic," he said, adding that "some will be requests and others will be compulsory."

The leader urged citizens to self-isolate and avoid returning to their home provinces.

"If the situation does not improve, there will be a total lockdown," he said.

With the emergency declaration, the prime minister will have power to ban citizens from leaving their homes, public gatherings and to evacuate people from areas for public safety.

In Italy, now the global epicenter of the virus with 69,176 cases, there are signs the outbreak may be peaking.

Italy's Department of Civil Protection said that the death toll rose by 743 cases to 6,820 after officials said the number of new cases and the death toll fell for a second straight day Monday.

In Spain, a spike of new cases and deaths were recorded Tuesday amid a tight national lockdown.

Officials reported a 24 percent increase in deaths and more than 500 new cases. Nearly 40,000 Spanish citizens have been sickened.

Scenes from a pandemic: World copes with COVID-19

A health worker with the Israeli national emergency service, Magen David Adam, wears protective gear while taking swabs to test for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing center in East Jerusalem on August 26. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

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