India to stop domestic flights as PM Modi asks citizens to take lockdown orders seriously

People exiting the domestic terminal of the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata on March 16, 2020.
People exiting the domestic terminal of the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata on March 16, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - India will stop all domestic flights within the country from Tuesday (March 24) even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked Indians to follow lockdown orders and stay at home amid a battle to curb steadily climbing coronavirus cases in the world's second-most populous country.

On Monday, the government announced that it was grounding all domestic flights starting at 11.59pm local time on Tuesday as coronavirus cases climbed to more than 400.

Only cargo flights will be allowed to fly across the country, while international flights were banned from flying into India from Sunday (March 22).

The announcement caps a series of strict measures taken by the government, including locking down 80 districts, which included the capital city Delhi and other major metros like Mumbai and Chennai.

This effectively means people can go out of their homes only to stock up on groceries.

All offices, except those providing essential services such as media outlets, have been asked to close.

Amid all the coronavirus developments, the Indian stock market saw its worst single-day fall on Monday, with the Sensex falling 13.15 per cent. The rupee hit a low of 76.16 to the dollar.

"People are still not taking lockdown rules seriously. Please do so and save yourself, save your family, follow rules seriously," tweeted Prime Minister Modi in Hindi.

Still, traffic was noticeably sparse in Delhi and its adjoining areas, including Gurugram, with small crowds visible only in and around grocery shops and supermarkets.

Police were seen stopping motorists to check their reasons for being out.

Some crowds were also seen at bus terminals as migrant workers attempted to leave cities and go back to their homes in smaller towns and villages.


Many shops restricted the number of people going in and offered sanitisers to customers to clean their hands before entering.

In the northern state of Punjab, and western state of Maharashtra, the state government imposed a curfew to better enforce lockdown while in Delhi, gatherings of more than five people at one place were banned.

Even protest sites have emptied out.

Protesters, including dozens of elderly women at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, who had been protesting for more than three months against the Citizenship Amendment Act for being discriminatory in giving fast track citizenship to non-Muslims from three neighbouring countries, also went home.

Only four or five protesters remained at the spot, while some left their footwear behind in a symbolic gesture.

Authorities have warned that violators would be fined 1,000 rupees (S$19) or face up to six months in jail for breaking lockdown orders.

India has seen a sharp escalation of Covid-19 cases going from about 25 or fewer a day last week to more than 80 cases a day.

The South Asian country, with a population of more than 1.35 billion, has registered about 425 positive cases with eight deaths so far.


The government is hoping that the travel ban will help slow down the spread of the virus.

Still, concerns are growing that numbers may spike. There are predictions that India may see a full-blown outbreak affecting millions amid concerns by health experts that the country is not testing enough people.