A police officer is wearing a coronavirus helmet to warn people to stay inside during India's lockdown

By Jessie Yeung, CNN

    (CNN) -- As India enforces a nationwide lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, one police officer has found a creative way to get the message across.

Rajesh Babu, a police inspector in the southern city of Chennai, wears a specially constructed coronavirus helmet while stopping vehicles and pedestrians at checkpoints.

The helmet is covered in red spikes with bulbs on the end, just like the microscopic image of the coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19.

Local artist B. Gowtham, founder of the Chennai-based organization Art Kingdom, came up with the helmet after noticing a lack of public awareness around the pandemic and preventative measures.

"People are not hygienic enough," Gowtham said. "We have government orders not to come out -- but still, we're seeing people roaming here and there without proper safety equipment, without masks."

Gowtham thought people weren't taking the illness seriously because it seemed invisible. So he decided to create something whereby they could actually see the virus coming toward them.

Then, he said, "people will be frightened."

Gowtham went to his nearest police station. "They've been working continuously, so I wanted to reduce their workload and make people more aware," he said. After getting their support, he got to work.

Every store was shut, so he improvised, using newspapers and tissue paper to create the helmet and its spikes -- then gave it to police inspector Babu, who loved the idea.

Wearing the helmet, Babu stops people in cars or motorcycles, especially when he sees them not wearing face masks. He tells them about the necessity of social distancing and protective personal equipment, and urges them not to go outside for nonessential reasons.

Dressed as the coronavirus, he would say: "If you come out, I will come in."

The helmet has been well received, Gowtham said, with a number of commuters thanking Babu for the information and agreeing to stay home.

India has recorded 1,024 cases of the coronavirus and 27 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the lockdown last Tuesday, and it went into effect midnight that day. The short notice could be one reason why people were caught off guard, Gowtham said.

The lockdown will last for at least 21 days, and applies to all of India's 36 states and union territories -- home to more than 1.3 billion people.

All shops, factories, offices, markets, religious spaces and construction sites are closed, with some interstate transportation suspended. Only essential services including health, grocery or firefighting services, among others, remain in operation.

In a monthly radio address to the nation on Sunday, Modi apologized for the lockdown and the difficulties it imposed on citizens, but reiterated that it was "the only option."

"I understand your troubles but there was no other way to wage a war against corona for a country like India with a population of 1.3 billion," he said. "It is a battle of life and death and we have to win it. Therefore, such strong measures were absolutely necessary."

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