The capital New Delhi and over 80 cities and districts shut down as India scrambles to check the spread of the pandemic.

Authorities in India have placed more than 80 cities and districts across the country under stringent lockdown after cases of coronavirus were detected there, as the world’s second-most populous nation stepped up measures to halt the spread of the pandemic.

“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 on Sunday.

The state shutdowns came during a 14-hour voluntary curfew that Prime Minister Narendra Modi said would test India’s ability to fight the pandemic.

“This is the start of a long fight,” Modi tweeted as the curfew came to an end and people came out onto their balconies and stood near open windows to clap, bang on metal vessels and ring bells to cheer emergency workers battling the spread of the coronavirus.

On Monday, Modi said many Indians were not taking the lockdown seriously. “Please save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously,” he said on Twitter.

Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam, reporting from New Delhi, said pretty much all the major cities around the country are in lockdown along with 75 districts, which make up about 10 percent of the country’s population.

“No one is being allowed to go out unless they work in essential services such as healthcare,” she said.

“All inter-state buses have cancelled, so have metro services around the country.”

Al Jazeera’s correspondent said a large number of migrants are stranded at bus stations in big cities as they are trying to get back to their respective home towns.

New Delhi’s borders sealed
Normally bustling streets in the capital New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai were mostly deserted as many people stayed indoors.

A growing number of states and territories, including the capital New Delhi, banned all activity except for essential services.

Authorities banned gatherings of more than five people in several of India’s states, including Maharashtra in the west, which has had the highest number of cases. They warned of legal action against people violating the ban.

Newspapers canceled print runs in Mumbai after vendors refused to distribute them due to worry about the coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year and has spread around the world.

More than 300,000 people have been infected worldwide, with the death toll topping 14,000.