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Coronavirus

New Delhi lockdown shuts all transport, offices and factories

Restrictions to last until month-end and come on top of nationwide curfew

Indian families in New Delhi bang pans and clap to cheer health workers fighting the coronavirus. The Indian capital will observe a complete lockdown from 6 a.m. March 23 until March 31.   © AP

NEW DELHI -- The sprawling Indian capital of New Delhi, home to 20 million, will go under complete lockdown from 6 a.m. Monday through March 31, the minister in charge of the city said Sunday.

With three more people reported succumbing to the virus on Sunday, a total of seven patients have died in India, a country of 1.3 billion which has so far reported 360 positive cases, including 27 in Delhi.

"No public transport will be allowed and all offices, factories and commercial establishments will remain shut, except those engaged in essential services such as police and fire departments and hospitals," Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister for the capital, said in a news conference. He added that all markets and shops -- except groceries, pharmacies and other essential suppliers -- will be closed till month's end.

He said the borders of Delhi state will be sealed and all domestic and international flights coming to the capital city will be suspended. However, shortly after his briefing, local media reported that domestic flights will not be impacted, citing the Civil Aviation Ministry.

All places of worship will be shut, the minister added, asking people not to leave their homes unless it is unavoidable. Any gathering of more than five people will not be allowed.

Strict action will be taken against people flouting these orders, he said.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures," Kejriwal later tweeted. "Delhi will be under lockdown from tomorrow 6 AM until 31st March. Certain exceptions have been made to ensure essential items are available for purchase and basic services continue to operate."

Separately, a high-level meeting of top bureaucrats in the country's national and state governments decided to shut down all districts of the country where confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported, including the financial hub of Mumbai, the eastern city of Kolkata and the southern city of Bangalore. Only essential services will operate across these 75 coronavirus-hit districts.

They also decided to suspend all passenger rail services through month's end, including metro rail services. Interstate passenger bus service will also be stopped. Freight trains will be allowed to continue to operate.

"All these are temporary but very vital measures to break the chain of transmission," joint secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Luv Aggarwal, told a media briefing.

Meanwhile, people across the country on Sunday paid heed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to stay indoors from 7 a.m. till 9 p.m. local time as part of a "public curfew." At 5 p.m., Indians applauded the contributions of emergency workers fighting the coronavirus by clapping, clanging utensils and ringing bells for 5 minutes from the balconies, windows and terraces of their houses.

"Today, the countrymen have showed that we are capable. If we decide, we can beat the biggest challenge together," Modi said in a series of tweets. He asked people not to leave their houses in areas where lockdowns have been announced and also other places unless absolutely necessary.

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