In his 14 April 2020 announcement of the extension of India’s lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that his government had been proactive in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He made four claims (listen from 5:19):
- “When we didn’t have even one case of coronavirus, India had started airport screening of passengers arriving from corona-affected countries.”
- “Before corona patients had reached 100, India had made 14-day isolation mandatory for all passengers from arriving from abroad.”
- “Many places like malls, theatres, clubs and gyms were closed.”
- “When we had only 550 corona cases, India imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown.”
Apart from the obvious truth that India imposed a lockdown on 24 March, the first three statements are falsehoods.
According to FactChecker.in:
When India reported its first COVID-19 case on January 30, 2020 – the same day that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a public health emergency – its airports were not screening passengers from countries other than China and Hong Kong, though 20 countries had reported cases.
The government mandated the universal screening of all international flights only on 4 Mar 2020, by which time India had 27 COVID-19 cases in five states. Modi’s first statement is just wrong.
The chart below shows how flight screening lagged the global spread of COVID-19 until 4 March.
As an aside, on 24 January the International Civil Aviation Organization warned that entry screening alone is ineffective. This was presumably because of the coronavirus’ incubation period of up to 14 days and the likelihood of asymptomatic virus carriers.
But that’s another debate.
India’s COVID-19 cases were below 100 on 14 March, at which point Mr Modi claims that isolation was made mandatory for all international passengers.
The table below lists all the travel advisories regarding passenger quarantine from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare:
It clearly shows that the government never made quarantine compulsory for all incoming passengers. Mr Modi’s second claim is also appears to be a fabrication.
Closure of public spaces
Finally, Mr Modi stated that public spaces like gyms, malls and clubs were closed on 14 March, when India’s COVID-19 cases were fewer than 100. This is difficult to verify, but one example serves to falsify his claim. The Delhi Gymkhana Club is located right next to PM Modi’s residence. As in, it shares a wall with the Race Course Road complex. The club closed on 20 March, almost a week after when Mr Modi claims clubs were made to shut down. Maybe he should have just peered over the wall to check?
Clearly, truth and accuracy are in lockdown along with the rest of us. In a pandemic with so much at stake, PM CARES not a whit for anything other than his own image.
Date when screening of passengers from Singapore and Thailand started updated from 6 February to 1 February in the first table.