India has instituted the biggest lockdown yet in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a television address Tuesday that the entire country, roughly 1.3 billion people, would begin a 21-day lockdown at midnight, bringing the total number of people on such restrictions to roughly one-fifth of the Earth’s population.

“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi announced.

Modi sternly advised his people not to break the lockdown, saying “many families will be destroyed forever” if coronavirus continues to spread in the country. There have been 519 confirmed cases of the virus in India, resulting in 10 deaths. Modi has also pledged $2 billion to help strengthen the country’s health system.

“You have seen the worldwide situations arising from the coronavirus pandemic in the news,” Modi said. “You have also seen how the most powerful nations have become helpless in the face of this pandemic.”

As with all other lockdowns, essential services like hospitals, police, pharmacies, and grocery stores have been exempted from this order and will stay open.

Several measures have been enacted in India to help soften the financial blow of this lockdown. Similar to the U.S., the country’s tax filing deadline has been pushed back by three months. ATM withdrawal fees and minimum bank balance charges have also been waived.

“According to health experts, a minimum of 21 days is most crucial to break the cycle of infection,” Modi said. “If we are not able to manage this pandemic in the next 21 days, the country and your family will be setback by 21 years.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday pleaded with Indians to heed the orders Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday pleaded with Indians to heed the orders Photo: AFP / Indranil MUKHERJEE