Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the three-week lockdown on March 24. People in India, a country with 1.3 billion inhabitants, are allowed to leave their homes only for essentials; religious gatherings are explicitly banned.
Officials announced an escalation of the lockdown on Wednesday, as authorities identified and then sealed off dozens of COVID-19 hot spots in the capital of New Delhi and the neighboring Uttar Pradesh state.
“It is a lockdown within a lockdown,” district information officer Gouri Kant told Reuters.
Government officials said that people in hot spot areas will receive food, medicines and other supplies at their doorsteps, and will not be allowed to leave these areas.
India’s strategy for battling coronavirus focuses on identifying “containment zones” targeted for efforts to restrict the virus “within a defined geographic area” to stop further transmission.
“To manage coronavirus, we are working on a cluster containment strategy,” Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said Wednesday.
Although new coronavirus cases are spread over roughly 40 percent of India’s districts, they are concentrated in India’s densely populated urban centers. Mumbai, previously known as Bombay, is the worst impacted city in the country.
People in hot zones are asked to call a hotline number for the delivery of supplies to their homes, according to Reuters.
Authorities also made it compulsory to wear face masks when outdoors in areas not covered by the restrictions in the two states.
India put its entire population of 1.3 billion, one-fifth of the world's population, under lockdown for three weeks — until April 14.
Modi is set to decide this week whether to extend the lockdown but said Wednesday that several state governments asked for an extension to deal with their outbreaks.
The prime minister has cited serious economic challenges India is facing since the lockdown went into place. The abrupt shutdown announcement led to a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities to villages across the country. Many were forced to walk after the country's rail system was shut down.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.