At least 75 districts including parts of New Delhi will be under lockdown until March 31. The government is seeking to keep citizens indoors to prevent the spread of coronavirus and giving police powers to punish violators.
“State governments will issue orders allowing only essential services to operate in about 75 districts with confirmed COVID-19 cases or casualties,” said a home ministry official in New Delhi.
Indian Railways, which carries more than 25 million commuters a day, canceled all passenger train services until March 31.
Many states have shut borders with neighbouring states.
In India’s capital, New Delhi public transport will be suspended, said the state’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal.
“We have learnt this from the world that the less you venture outside, the less you come in contact with the world that much we can save ourselves,” Kejriwal told reporters.
“We are saying this repeatedly that you can save yourself from coronavirus,” he said.
The order to shut down the capital and other regions came hours after hundreds of millions of Indians heeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal for people to self-isolate for a day to contain the spread of the disease.
India has registered at least 360 positive coronavirus cases and reported seven deaths.
Experts have said the number of cases mirror rates during the early stages of the outbreak in other countries, which then went on to see very rapid growth.
Medical experts say a lack of testing facilities could be hiding the true extent of cases in India, which has a population of more than 1.3 billion people.
Testing has been expanded to private laboratories and will now include asymptomatic people who have had contact with confirmed cases.