NEW DELHI (AP) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a live speech on Tuesday that the country’s death rate under coronavirus is under control, but that the country is at a “critical time”.
Modi’s sixth speech since the pandemic came when India reported nearly 570,000 infections and more than 16,000 deaths.
“It is true that when you look at the corona death rate, compared to many countries of this world, India appears to be in (good) condition,” said Modi, who made his decision to close the country down to anything but essential activity from late March to early June.
But since the closure was lifted, the caseload has skyrocketed, making India the fourth most affected country in the world. While some restrictions remain, many industries and businesses have reopened and Indians have cautiously returned to the streets.
Modi blamed people for not wearing masks or following social distance guidelines.
“People are becoming careless,” he said, “and we must call the offenders.”
He also urged local governments to be stricter in enforcing distance standards.
Modi said the free food ration for 800 million of the country’s 1.3 billion people would continue through November. He said the government would offer one ration card that would apply across national borders.
“The main beneficiaries will be the poor people who leave their village and start working elsewhere,” he said indirectly, referring to the tens of thousands of migrants who left the cities of India when the closure started, and who are now starting to return as industry comes back online.
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