Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Though India has reported only around 700 coronavirus cases, it has imposed a nationwide stay-home order, shuttering schools, offices, factories, parks, temples and railways for more than a billion people.

The restrictions, which took effect Wednesday, were meant to keep the country — which is very densely populated and has a weak health system — from spiraling into a disaster dwarfing what China, Italy and the U.S. have faced.

But Jeffrey Gettleman, The Times’s New Delhi bureau chief, says that inadequate planning and confusion about the rules have led to chaos after just one day. Police officers attacked pharmacists who tried to go to work, one industry official said. Grocery stores stayed open, but panic buying emptied their shelves. Some states completely sealed their borders.

Jeffrey spoke with our colleague Melina Delkic about what’s happening on the ground in India. (This is a condensed version of their conversation; read more here.)

India’s caseload is still relatively low. What’s the biggest worry when it rises?

The country spends very little on health care per capita. Public hospitals, the number of doctors, the number of beds, equipment they use, it’s all below the standards of most other parts of the world. Some of the best hospitals in the world are really struggling, so just imagine how a hospital that has much fewer resources would respond.

How are people supposed to access essential services?

The gist of it is that you can go to your closest pharmacy or food source, and because India is so densely populated, those places are everywhere. There’s been some confusion, and some pharmacies and food shops were made to shut. Some journalists have gotten beaten up because police officers said they weren’t allowed to travel.

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