• A sweeping lockdown is in place across India to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • People are banned from going out except in emergencies or to buy essential food and medicine.
  • The lockdown aims to prevent a spike in cases which could quickly overwhelm India’s health service.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has enforced the world’s biggest lockdown to limit the spread of coronavirus, telling 1.3 billion people to stay at home for three weeks.

“If we are not able to manage this pandemic in the next 21 days, the country and your families will be set back by 21 years,” Modi said as he announced the restrictions.


As of 1 April, India had recorded more than 1,500 cases of coronavirus, and 45 deaths. These rates may seem relatively low for a population the size of India’s – the country is home to almost a fifth of the world’s people. But India has just eight doctors per 10,000 people, prompting fears that rising numbers of cases could quickly overwhelm its healthcare system.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

The new restrictions have brought the country to a standstill, emptying streets, grounding flights, halting rail services and putting millions of people out of work.

Before the lockdown began on 25 March, crowded buses returned people to their villages and towns.

People travel in a crowded bus to return to their cities and villages before the start of the lockdown by West Bengal state government to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kolkata, India March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
People in Kolkata take a crowded bus home before the start of the lockdown.
Image: REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

The lockdown has emptied roads, including this main highway in Kolkata.

A view shows almost empty roads before the start of the lockdown by West Bengal state government to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kolkata, India March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Thousands of roads in India have been closed.
Image: REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Barricades went up as New Delhi and other cities closed roads.

A man sits at New Delhi's border barricade during lockdown by the authorities to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
New Delhi's border has been barricaded during lockdown.
Image: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Government restrictions on public gatherings have left usually bustling places such as shopping centres deserted.

An empty shopping mall is seen after government imposed restrictions on public gatherings in attempt to prevent spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Gurugram, India, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Malls have been shut across the country.
Image: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

People are only permitted to venture out of their homes in emergencies or to buy essential food or medicines, with paramilitaries and police officers on the streets to enforce the ban.

Paramilitary personnel and police officers stand guard on the street as India ordered a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India, March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Paramilitary and police officers have been patrolling the streets.
Image: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Dressed in protective gear, police officers arrive in a residential area of Ahmedabad to check on people under home quarantine.

Police officers in protective suits arrive in a residential area to check on people under home quarantine, during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India, March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Some police officers have been equipped with protective suits.
Image: REUTERS/Amit Dave

People stand in chalk circles to maintain a safe distance from others, while they queue for medicine in Ahmedabad.

Hospitals, police and other essential service providers are exempt from the stay-at-home restrictions, and grocery stores and pharmacies remain open.

People queue standing in circles drawn with chalk to maintain safe distance as they wait to buy medicine during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India, March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Some shops have drawn chalk circles to ensure customers maintain a safe distance.
Image: REUTERS/Amit Dave

Migrant workers wait in line to receive free food outside Kolkata’s Howrah railway station.

Migrant workers wait in a queue to receive free food outside Howrah railway station after India ordered a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kolkata, India, March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Migrant workers seen queuing outside Howrah train station in Kolkata.
Image: REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

In Kolkata, a medical worker enters a new isolation ward for people with COVID-19 symptoms.

A paramedic staff member enters a newly setup isolation ward for the people who suffer symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a hospital in Kolkata, India, March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Specialist coronavirus wards have been set up.
Image: REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Beds are prepared in a quarantine facility. India’s Ministry of Defence has set up seven additional quarantine facilities to receive Indian citizens returning home from countries affected by coronavirus.

Workers prepare beds to set up a quarantine facility amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Howrah on the outskirts of Kolkata, India March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri - Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
India's healthcare system prepares for the spread of the virus.
Image: REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri


As the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide continues to climb, efforts to slow the spread of the virus have led to a quarter of the global population living under lockdown conditions.