Modi tells Indian sports stars to 'boost morale' during virus lockdown

©Agence France-Presse

India's cricket captain Virat Kohli is among 40 sports stars called on by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help 'boost morale' in the locked-down country

New Delhi (AFP) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged current and former Indian sports stars on Friday to help "boost morale" and encourage people to adhere to a nationwide lockdown aimed at containing the coronavirus.

Modi held a video conference with 40 big names in sport including cricket skipper Virat Kohli, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and badminton champion PV Sindhu, his office said.

They have a "very important role to play in boosting the morale of the nation as well as spreading the message of social distancing along with asking people to continuously follow advisories given during lockdown," Modi told them.

He said traits learned in sport such as the "ability to face challenges, self-discipline, positivity and self-belief are the essential tools to combat the spread of the virus."

The athletes also "praised the leadership of the Prime Minister in this challenging time," according to the statement.

India so far has largely escaped the pandemic with 2,300 infections and 56 deaths, according to official figures, but two fatalities in the Dharavi slum area of Mumbai have set alarm bells ringing

Testing rates are low compared to many other countries and there are fears the tally understates the true scale of the health crisis.

The unprecedented three-week lockdown of India's 1.3 billion people began on March 25 and has been far from smooth.

Hundreds of thousands of jobless migrant workers have been heading back to their home villages, many on foot after most transport was brought to a halt.