Addressing the nation for the second time in a week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on late Tuesday announced a countrywide lockdown for three weeks, thus restricting a population of over 1.3 billion indoors. 

“India is at a stage where our actions today will help decide the impact of this disaster tomorrow. This is the time to observe a strict lockdown, a step outside of home can lead to the virus spread. Infected people often seem fine at first, they can infect hundreds within days,” said Modi in a live telecast.

Modi also confirmed an allocation of $19.6 billion package for COVID-19, to procure medical equipments and protective gear, testing facilities, personal protection equipments, intensive care units, and also an increased training of the medical and paramedical staff.

“I have appealed to all the state governments to make healthcare their first priority. We also believe that the private companies to join us in an effort to contain the deadly virus,” added Modi.

Soon after Modi’s speech, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released a statement confirming that 118 laboratories have been included in the Indian Council of Medical Research network of COVID-19 testing with a capacity to test 12,000 samples per day. In the last five days, on an average, 1,338 samples have been tested per day.

Furthermore, 22 private lab chains have registered with the Indian Council of Medical Research for COVID-19 testing, it added.

The COVID-19 cases in India crossed the 500 mark on Tuesday, jumping to 519, including ten deaths.

After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, coronavirus has spread to at least 169 countries and regions, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Out of more than 409,000 confirmed cases, the death toll now exceeds 18,200, while nearly 106,500 have recovered.

Italy, China, Iran, and Spain continue to be the most affected countries.

Despite the rising number of cases, a vast majority of those infected by the virus suffer mild symptoms and recover.