A church leader in India has praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for imposing a complete lockdown of the country for 21 days amid the coronavirus pandemic. “If the virus isn’t brought under control within these 21 days, India will go back by 21 years. I appeal with folded hands, please don't leave your homes during the lockdown," Modi said during his televised address to the nation on March 24. The lockdown began today but excludes essential services. “We should all appreciate it as it is the hour of need because not only India but the entire world is going through this difficult phase. We have to fight it collectively and whatever the government has decided, we will abide by it,” Archbishop Felix Anthony Machado of Vasai, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, told UCA News. “As the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a pandemic, we have to join hands regardless of religion and stand with the government because during this period our first priority should be to save lives.
“The Catholic Church in India has rescheduled services for respective churches and dioceses until April 4, but we will review the matter as we approach Holy Week from April 5. As of now, our first responsibility is to save lives because they are precious gifts from God.” Archbishop Machado said Masses and other services at churches across India are canceled until April 4, the eve of Palm Sunday. He was speaking against the backdrop of the prime minister’s address to the nation. “India is at the stage where our actions today will decide to what extent we can mitigate the impact of this disaster. This is the time to strengthen our resolve,” Modi said.“This lockdown will be strictly imposed in every village and every lane. According to health experts, 21 days are necessary to break the cycle of the coronavirus.”He urged fellow Indians to forget the outside world for 21 days. “Forget all work except the work of staying at home. With this order, we have drawn a lakshan rekha
(boundary line) around our house from now on," Modi said.Noting that many developed nations have failed to control the virus, he stressed social distancing is the only way to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus. He also announced a 150-billion-rupee (US$2 billion) package for medical infrastructure to combat Covid-19. This was done to acquire medical equipment and protective gear, testing facilities and ventilators. “I have appealed to state governments to make public healthcare the highest priority right now. I am also sure that private companies will also join in the efforts to curb the infection,” Modi said.Soon after his announcement, long queues formed outside supermarkets across the country as people panicked. The PM had to take to Twitter to reassure the public that all essentials will still be available during this period. “There is no doubt that if we don’t take adequate precautions now, the pandemic will hit us very hard because our health system may not be able to handle it due to the shortage of medical professionals in the country and the poor management of the heathcare system,” Father Savarimuthu Sankar, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Delhi, told UCA News. “We all are aware that Holy Week and Easter fall during the lockdown period and there are a few Hindu festivals in the first and second week of April, but we should not forget that during this time of crisis our first duty is to protect lives,” said Father Sankar. “We should also remember the guidelines and the direction from our Holy Father, who has said that during this hour of need our foremost work is to save lives.”
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