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India announces $23bn welfare package to combat coronavirus

Government offers cash and grains over the next three months

Indians in Kolkata adhere to social distancing rules while waiting to buy medicine during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus in Kolkata.   © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- With 1.3 billion people locked down for three weeks in India to contain the spread of coronavirus, the government on Thursday announced a 1.7-trillion-rupee ($22.6 billion) welfare program for the poor that includes direct cash transfers and the provision of grains for free.

Frontline medical staff such as doctors, nurses, paramedics and medical sanitation workers will be provided with medical insurance of 5 million rupees each. India now has 649 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 13 deaths. The government ordered a nationwide lockdown that came into place on Wednesday.

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