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India Orders Strict Lockdown Of 1.3 Billion Citizens For 21 Days

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered a 21-day lockdown of the country's 1.3 billion people to try to protect the world's second-most populous country from the coronavirus.

Health researchers have warned more than a million people in India could be infected with the coronavirus by mid-May, prompting the government to shut down all air and train travel, businesses and schools.

Modi went further on Tuesday, saying nobody in the world's biggest democracy will be allowed to leave their homes for the next three weeks from midnight on Tuesday.

"The only way to save ourselves from coronavirus is if we don't leave our homes, whatever happens, we stay at home," Modi said.

"Every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown," he added, warning the country would be set back by decades if it didn't shut down and fight the virus.

Scores of people turned up at shops in Delhi and Mumbai and elsewhere to buy essentials before the ban orders went into effect.

India has found 482 cases of the coronavirus and 10 people have died from the disease.

Image: AAP

However alarm is growing across the region about prospects for its spread into impoverished communities and the ability of resource-starved public health sectors to cope.

The Indian government said essential services including groceries, fuel stations and banks will remain open.