Millions of Indians turned off their lights and lit up balconies and doorsteps with lamps, candles and flashlights on Sunday, in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to “challenge the darkness” spread by the coronavirus crisis.
Modi, who imposed a three-week long nationwide lockdown on March 25, asked all citizens to turn out their lights for nine minutes at 9 p.m. local time on Sunday, and to display lamps and candles in a show of solidarity.
Modi’s call was met with a huge response, with many people lighting up their balconies. Others lit firecrackers, played musical instruments, and sang patriotic songs. Grid data showed India’s national power consumption plunging more than a quarter in a matter of minutes.
The show of unity came as the total number of coronavirus cases in India increased to 3,577, while the death toll rose to 83.
Some officials have warned that lockdowns could continue beyond April 14 in parts of India where new cases have been detected.
With the number of cases continuing to increase daily, India restricted the export of most diagnostic testing kits.
The government, which in recent weeks already banned the export of certain medicines, along with ventilators, masks and other protective gear needed by both patients and medical staff, issued the latest directive late on Saturday.
The move came even as U.S. President Donald Trump urged Modi in a phone call to release supplies of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which is being tested as a possible treatment for patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“The two leaders agreed to remain in touch on the issue of global supply chains for critical pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and to ensure they continue to function as smoothly as possible during the global health crisis,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said on Saturday.
In a briefing note on the conversation, India said the two leaders “agreed to deploy the full strength of the India–U.S. partnership to resolutely and effectively combat COVID-19.”