PM Modi says virus status ‘critical,’ warns of carelessness

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Naga women wear masks as a precaution against the coronavirus and walk past closed shops early morning in Kohima, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Nagaland, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Several Indian states have reimposed partial or full lockdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Yirmiyan Arthur)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a live address Tuesday that the country’s coronavirus death rate is under control, but that the country is at a “critical juncture.”

Modi’s sixth address since the pandemic began came as India reported nearly 570,000 infections and over 16,000 deaths.

“It is true that if you look at the death rate of corona, then in comparison to many countries of this world, India seems to be in (good) condition,” Modi said, crediting his decision to close down the country to all but essential activity from late March to early June.

But since the lockdown was lifted, the caseload has shot up, making India the world’s fourth-worst affected country. While some restrictions remain, many industries and businesses have reopened, and Indians have cautiously returned to the streets.

Modi blamed people for failing to wear masks or follow social distancing guidelines.

“People are becoming careless,” he said, adding, “we need to call out the violators.”

He also urged local administrations to be more stringent about enforcing distancing norms.

Modi said free food rations for 800 million of the country’s 1.3 billion people would continue until November. He said the government would offer a single ration card that would apply across state boundaries.

“The biggest beneficiaries will be those poor people who leave their village and go elsewhere for work,” he said, indirectly referring to the tens of thousands of migrants who left India’s cities when the lockdown began, and are now beginning to return as industry comes back online.

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