On balconies, rooftops and front steps across India on Sunday, people came out to make noise in a show of support for medical workers and the emergency services – and in defiance of the global coronavirus pandemic.

With pots and pans, metal plates and shankha (horn-like conches used in Hindu prayer), families who had been observing a nationwide all-day curfew embraced the opportunity to take part in a kind of neighbourhood social interaction.

The five-minute ovation at 5pm was called for on Thursday in a national address by prime minister Narendra Modi, to “boost morale” of doctors and public workers and as a “salute [to] their service”.

As a result, it lacked the spontaneity of the musical performances on balconies that have gone viral across Europe in recent weeks.

But the Indian public appear to have made up for that with enthusiastic observance, as videos were posted on social media from across the country of entire communities taking part.

It came on Sunday as lockdown measures were extended across the country, with most train services now suspended and many major cities’ metro networks closing.

In Delhi and other major cities, restaurants and cafes were ordered to close in the past couple of days, following the shuttering of schools, cinemas, gyms and other public gatherings earlier on.

India was also one of the first countries to implement extensive foreign travel restrictions, which on Sunday was extended to a total ban on the arrival of all international commercial passenger jets.

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Officially, India’s coronavirus caseload rose to 370 today, with seven deaths. But the country’s testing has been limited and, particularly given the extensive measures taken by the government, experts say it should be assumed the true count of infections is already well into the tens of thousands.



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