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As cases dip, health experts say time right to unlock Delhi

Dr Puneet Misra, Professor of Community Medicine at AIIMS, also said easing of lockdown restrictions is not likely to pose a threat for now.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
May 29, 2021 8:13:49 pm
A drive through Covid-19 vaccination facility (Express Photo: Gajendra Yadav, File)

With daily cases falling below 1,000 in Delhi and lockdown restrictions set to ease next week, health experts say the national capital appears to be out of danger for now and economic activity can be restarted.

Dr Jugal Kishore, head of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, said Delhi could look at greater easing of restrictions to encourage economic activity. “Opening of construction activities and factories is the right step, in fact it should have been done this week itself. It’s a good move but transport also has to be started at the same time, things like Metro services should be resumed to help people get to work,” he said.

According to him, a government enforced lockdown has little role to play in the current movement of the virus. “Even if there was no lockdown, we would have reached this decreased level of cases by this time, that is the natural course of any epidemic of this infectious nature. Almost 80% of the population has been infected, so now we can expect a new wave in a few conditions. First, if a large number of people from another place come, adding to the vulnerable population here, thus becoming a new source of infection. Second is new births which is a phenomenon that keeps occurring every day. Mutation of the virus is another condition,” he said.

According to him, monitoring is key – studies to show how affected children have been by the virus and how much they can contribute to the spread, and increased genome sequencing to continuously study variations of the virus in the population.

Dr Puneet Misra, Professor of Community Medicine at AIIMS, also said easing of lockdown restrictions is not likely to pose a threat for now.

“I don’t think there will be a huge increase if the lockdown opens. One thing that might be a matter of concern is that Delhi is a place where lots of people come to work, and many of them had gone back at the beginning of the wave. We don’t know for sure what the situation is like in all their villages. If there is an influx from parts where they’re not infected, they might get infection but that might not be a huge rise… If after a few months, natural immunity wanes — or new variants emerge which escape immunity provided by previous infection or vaccine – then we may see a rise again,” he said, adding that focus on Covid appropriate-behaviour and vaccination should remain after opening of lockdown.

With the city recording 956 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours – the lowest since March 22 – Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Saturday, “Yesterday, we announced that construction activities and factories can be opened up because the poor such as migrant labourers have faced the most difficulty during the lockdown. Today, only 900 cases have emerged for the first time; I hope that as and when the cases keep decreasing in the coming weeks, we will continue to unlock further. We want economic activities to come back on track so that the economy can be revived.”

Traders in the city have expressed disappointment over relaxations not being applied to them as well. On Saturday, Praveen Khandelwal, national secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders, wrote to L-G Anil Baijal to appeal for a review of lockdown restrictions in the coming week.

“It was much expected that shops would open and was also logical based on the current situation of Covid in Delhi… we do not see any harm in opening shops and markets in Delhi in a phased manner while segregating the working time of different verticals of Delhi trade,” he wrote.

In response to these concerns, Kejriwal had said, “I can understand the troubles of traders and I can understand their anxiety. I want to tell them that it was with great difficulty that we were able to control the situation by imposing a lockdown. I can understand their difficulty but they should be patient and not rush. We also want that their markets and shops to open up and as and when the situation comes under control, we will open up everything.”

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