Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first public engagement after the announcement of a countrywide lockdown, on Wednesday invoked the Mahabharata war to state that India’s battle against Coronavirus will continue for 21 days.

“Mahabharat war was won in 18 days, this war which the whole country is fighting against COVID-19 will take 21 days,” he said during an interaction with the citizens of Varanasi via video conferencing.

“Our aim is to win this war in 21 days,” the PM said defending the three-week lockdown.

He said, as a Member of Parliament from Varanasi “I should have been among you in times like these.” “But you know the things which are going on in Delhi. Despite being busy here, I have been taking regular updates about Varanasi from my colleagues,” PM Modi said.

The Prime Minister further appealed to the people to take the lockdown seriously, understand facts and not believe in rumours.

“COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor. It will not spare anyone just because they perform yoga or exercise daily,” he said during the interaction.

In his address, PM Modi further condemned the harassment of doctors and nurses and also expressed “pain” at people targeting professionals handling coronavirus patients.

“In this hour of crisis, those in white coats are a form of God. Today they are saving lives, putting their own lives in danger,” the Prime Minister said, responding to a doctor who said she felt upset at health workers being ostracized.

He also appealed to the people to take an initiative to make those who ill-treat healthcare professionals understand that they are wrong.

The Prime Minister said he has directed the Home Ministry and DGPs to take strict action against those not supporting or not co-operating with doctors, nurses and other professionals who are engaged in emergency services.

“The doctors, rescue workers who wen to Wuhan, Air India and other staff that have helped in ops to get back Indians from various parts of the world… these are our true heroes. We must help them. When I heard reports of them being harassed, I have taken it very seriously. It is a very grave issue for me. I have already told all state DGPs (police chiefs) to take the most strict action against those harassing them,” said the PM.

PM Modi also shared a Whatsapp helpline number for people to seek correct information on Coronavirus.

The Centre has formed a help-desk in collaboration with WhatsApp to seek correct information about the novel coronavirus, the PM said.

If you have access to WhatsApp, you can use the number 9013151515 for the purpose. If you write ‘Namaste’ on this WhatsApp number, either in English or in Hindi, then you will get an immediate response,” he said.

The Prime Minister was addressing a Q and A session a day after he announced a 21-day total lockdown in the country to break the chain of transmission of coronavirus, which has infected over 560 in India.

PM Modi, in his interaction also expressed his grief over the terror attack on a gurudwara in Kabul, that killed 27 people.

The Prime Minister further expressed hope that the citizens of the country would take the right step and follow the orders of lockdown just like March 22 ‘Janata Curfew’.

He also appealed to the people to not attempt to treat coronavirus infection on their own but consult a doctor in case of any symptom.

“Stay at your home and do things only after consulting a doctor. Call them up, ask them, tell them your ailments. We will have to note that no vaccine has been developed for it so far, anywhere in the world. Scientists in India and across the world are working on it rapidly. If someone recommends you a medicine then kindly talk to your doctor first. Take a medicine only after consulting a doctor.”

PM Modi on Tuesday evening announced a “total lockdown” across the country, asking people to “forget about stepping out of their homes” for the next three weeks.

He invoked the epic Ramayana when he said, “Forget about leaving home in the next 21 days. If you cross the Lakshman Rekha, you will invite the virus home.”

Total number of cases of novel Coronavirus in India has reached 603, with 546 active cases. At least 12 people have reportedly died of the infection.