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Migrants in mind, Delhi says no new curbs for now; Covid-19 cases surge to 923

🔴 The decision was taken at the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) meeting on Wednesday, which was called to discuss further restrictions and the vaccination programme.

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi |
Updated: December 30, 2021 8:31:35 am
Large crowds continued to gather at the Lajpat Nagar market despite curbs by the Delhi government, on Wednesday. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Even as the Capital reported 923 cases on Wednesday — the highest since May 30 (946) when the second wave was waning —and a positivity rate of 1.29%, officials said the Delhi government will not issue an “amber alert” for now, as it doesn’t want to trigger panic among migrant workers.

“The government is wary of creating a situation where there is a migrant worker exodus again because of panic. Moreover, bed occupancy in hospitals is still very low. Delhi is among the few states to have issued strict restrictions to control the spread of the Omicron variant and it was felt that stricter directions are not needed at this time,” said a senior government official, adding that an “amber alert” will not be issued even if the positivity rate is more than 1% for two consecutive days.

delhi, delhi covid news, delhi covid cases, delhi yellow alert A crowd of people board a bus at the AIIMS bus stop, in New Delhi, on Wednesday. Amid rising Covid-19 cases, the Delhi government announced a yellow alert on Tuesday which has reduced the seating capacity in buses to 50 percent. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

The decision was taken at the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) meeting on Wednesday, which was called to discuss further restrictions and the vaccination programme.

While the daily case count almost doubled from 496 cases on Tuesday, 73 new cases of the Omicron variant were reported on Wednesday. Delhi’s total Omicron tally is now 238; 71,696 tests were conducted on Tuesday (reported a day later, in Wednesday’s bulletin) in comparison to a daily average of just over 57,400 tests over the last seven days.

According to authorities, about 38% of the total samples analysed at various genome sequencing laboratories in Delhi over the last one week have reported the Omicron variant, which has now overtaken Delta variant (31% of total samples).

delhi news, delhi omicron cases, delhi yellow alert, delhi covid news Large crowds seen in a market in Lajpat Nagar, in New Delhi, on an odd-even day, on Wednesday. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Delhi saw two waves of migrant exodus — in March-April 2020 after the first lockdown was imposed, and in April-May this year when cases spiked during the second wave.

Bed occupancy in city hospitals is low at present — 262 Covid patients are admitted in hospitals, of which 27 are in ICUs and 15 are on ventilators; 97% of the 8,703 beds are unoccupied.

With the city reporting over 0.5% positivity rate since Sunday, the Delhi government issued a yellow alert under its Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) on Tuesday. All educational institutions, gyms, spas and sports complexes are closed, gatherings at weddings and funerals have been capped at 20, shops in markets and malls are open on odd-even pattern, and occupancy in public transport is capped at 50%.

People being tested for Covid-19 at the Ghazipur sabzi mandi, on Wednesday, December 29, 2021. (Express Photo by Amit Mehra)

The amber alert is triggered if any of three pre-decided conditions are met: positivity rate is more than 1% for two consecutive days; or 3,500 cumulative cases are seen in 7 days; or the average occupancy of oxygen beds in hospitals is 700 over a week. This will mean more restrictions, including closure of dining-in at restaurants, salons, barber shops and public parks, weekend curfew, and only 33% occupancy in Delhi Metro.

But, officials said, further restrictions could create panic among migrant workers and increase hardship, which could result in another round of job losses and migration. “The economy has started to find its feet again after a lot of efforts. People have faced hardship. If the amber alert is sounded, there could be more movement again. That is why the government is not keen on issuing the amber alert even if the conditions are met. If we look at the hospital bed occupancy, Delhi is in a very comfortable situation and no further action is needed,” said a senior government official who was part of the DDMA meeting.

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