On March 24, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his address to the nation that the entire country would be in a complete lockdown for 21 days to check the spread of coronavirus. He said it was not a curfew, but, given the seriousness of the matter, it should be treated as no less.
A lockdown is an emergency protocol that prevents people from leaving a given area. A full lockdown will mean you must stay where you are and not exit or enter a building or the given area. This scenario usually allows for essential supplies. All non-essential activities remain shut for the entire period.
Difference between lockdown, Section 144 and curfew
While a lockdown prevents people from leaving an area, Section 144 limits the number of people who can gather together in public, and curfew prohibits people from leaving their homes for a specific period.
What is Section 144?
Section 144 of the Indian penal code states that a gathering of four or more people is prohibited in the area concerned. If a gathering of four or more people is found, every member of the group can be charged for engaging in a riot.
Section 144 is imposed in urgent cases of nuisance or to control the danger of some event that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property.
What is a curfew?
A curfew is an order specifying a time during which certain regulations apply. Typically, it refers to the time when individuals are required to return to and stay in their homes.
When was India put under a lockdown and why
On March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a 21-day nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic which had claimed 10 lives in India until then and infected 509. With this, India's 1.3 billion citizens were ordered to stay at home, unless inevitable.
While imposing the lockdown, PM Modi said: "It took 67 days for the number of infected cases to rise to 100,000. But, it took only 11 days for the next 100,000 cases to emerge, and just four days for the next 100,000. This indicates the speed at which coronavirus is spreading."
What the 21-day lockdown means in the context of India's fight against Covid-19
In India, the restrictions on the movement and services were enforced by state governments, after advisories from the Centre. These restrictions derive their legal basis from the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. Under the coronavirus lockdown, essential supplies and grocery stores, pharmacies and banks will be open for public. All non-essential activities will remain shut for the entire period.
— Essential activities include: Buying groceries and medical supplies and visit to the doctor in case of medical emergencies
— What is shut: Private and government offices, religious institutions, schools, colleges,
— What’s open: Hospitals, dispensaries, chemist shops, ration shops under PDS, offices of print and electronic media, etc
Laws govt invoked to impose lockdown to fight a disease
— The Disaster Management Act: The stated object and purpose of the DM Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more. In the popular imagination, a disaster is usually associated with a natural calamity such as a cyclone or an earthquake. Even the definition of a “disaster” in Section 2 (d) of the Disaster Management Act states that a disaster means a “catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes…”.
To address the current epidemic outbreak, the central government has included the Covid-19 outbreak as “Notified Disaster” as a “critical medical condition or pandemic situation”.
— The Epidemic Diseases Act: Under this law, the central government as well as state governments have the power to take special measures and prescribe regulations to prevent the spread of a “dangerous epidemic disease”.
An example of this would be the order on March 16 under the Delhi Epidemics Diseases, Covid-19 Regulations, 2020, whereby the Delhi government restricted gatherings with groups of more than 50 persons till March 31.
Lockdown across the world to battle coronavirus
China’s Wuhan, where the coronavirus first appeared, was locked down for more than six weeks, and many other Chinese cities faced travel restrictions.
Other than India and China, France, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, and the UK implemented the world's largest and most restrictive mass quarantines.
As of March 25, the novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, pandemic had spread to at least 190 countries, infecting nearly 425,000 people across the globe, and claiming over 18,990 lives.