A family watches Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation on a television set on a television at their home in Amritsar on March 24, 2020. India's 1.3 billion people will go under "total lockdown" from midnight on March 24 (1830 GMT) for 21 days to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic (Photo: NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)

Narendra Modi has announced a 21-day “strict” lockdown in India, saying “the life of every Indian is the priority for me”.

“With folded hands, I appeal to people not to go out of their homes,” said the Indian Prime Minister.

In a televised address, Modi briefed the nation on various measures taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, which had 519 confirmed cases and nine deaths on Tuesday (24).

“The resolution that we made on March 22, of a Janata Curfew, all carried it out with the greatest sincerity and came together,” he said.

“In the last two days several states have gone under lockdown. From midnight, the whole country will come under complete lockdown.

“This is being done to save every citizen of the country.”

The prime minister emphasised that this was “a curfew, stricter than Janata curfew”.

“No doubt we will have to pay a cost for this, but to save the life of every Indian is the priority for me, government of India, state governments, local government,” he said, adding that he was making an appeal as a “part of your family”.

“As of now the lockdown will be for three weeks, 21 days”

He, however, said clarified that essential services would not be affected.

Modi noted that “even the most prosperous of countries have been made helpless by this pandemic”.

“It’s not like they don’t have resources or they are not trying, but the virus is such that these efforts are not enough,” he said.

“The experience of these countries in the last two months, and what the experts are also saying is that there is only one way to effectively combat it is social distancing.”

He cautioned against the “erroneous assumption that social distancing is only for those who are infected, but that is not true”.

“It’s for everyone even for the PM,” he added.

“The irresponsibility of some people will imperil your life, the life of your children. If this continues then you and India may have to pay a huge price.

“I request you to stay where you are. The coming 21 days are very important to break the coronavirus infection cycle.

“If we are not sincere in the curfew for 21 days then the country will fall back 21 years. For 21 days forget about venturing out. Stay home. Just do that one thing.”

Modi highlighted that while it took 67 days for the first 100,000 cases across the world, the next 100,000 came up within just 11 days.

“What is most scary that it reached 300,000 within 4 days. You can see how fast it can spread and once it does it’s difficult to stop it,” he said.

“In Countries like China, US, Italy, Iran once things went out of hand it’s been difficult to get back control it. Italy and US and UK are considered countries with good health infrastructure and still they are struggling.”

Modi said the “government has allotted Rs 15,000 crore [150 billion] to strengthen health infra to combat coronavirus”.

“This will be spent on testing centres, PPE, ventilators and other equipment. Private sector and private labs have also joined the fight,” he said.

The prime minister also warned against fake news and rumours.

“I pray that you do not take any medicine without consultation with a doctor,” he said.

Wrapping up his address, Modi said: “Twenty-one days of lockdown is a long time. But, for the safety of your family, this is the only way that we have. I am confident that every Indian will not only combat this difficult situation but will emerge victorious.”