The national capital started reopening on Monday, with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announcing the lifting of curbs on markets, public transport, parks, offices and construction activities, saying the lockdown “cannot be a permanent solution” against the coronavirus pandemic.
Asserting that the lockdown had given Delhi time to ramp up its medical infrastructure to deal with Covid-19, Kejriwal said it could tackle up to 50,000 active cases. As on Monday, Delhi’s count stood at 10,054 novel coronavirus cases, 5,409 of them “active”, and 160 deaths.
Immediately after Kejriwal’s announcement, made through a webcast, several autos and taxis hit the streets, after a two-month gap.
While Kejriwal said he would take a call on inter-state travel after talks with his counterparts, authorities in Gurgaon said they were waiting for guidelines from the state government. “We have not formally received any directions from the government of Haryana. Guidelines for the district will be issued once we have them,” said V S Kundu, monitoring officer (Gurgaon). Haryana on Monday made the entire state an orange zone, barring some containment zones.
In a late-night order, the Uttar Pradesh government said that except those residing in containment zones in Delhi, there will be no restriction on people travelling to Noida and Ghaziabad. The state government has left it to the local administration of the two districts to issue further guidelines.
Delhi has gone by most of the relaxations that found mention in the Centre’s guidelines for the fourth phase of the lockdown, lasting till May 31, but for keeping barber shops, spas and salons closed, and regulating inter-state movement for all except those attached with essential services. The relaxations do not cover Delhi’s 64 containment zones.
All shops in markets and shopping complexes have been allowed to open. In case of shops selling non-essential items, the odd-even policy will be followed, meaning that on a given day, half in a neighbourhood market will open. Liquor outlets, including private ones, can open.
Government and private offices can open with full staff strength, though Kejriwal urged private businesses to encourage work from home. RWAs have been specifically warned not to prevent anyone from any functions as permitted under the guidelines.
Cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber and taxis can restart services, but with maximum two passengers each. Car-pooling remains suspended. Autos, e-rickshaws, cycle rickshaws can ply with one passenger. People can also take out their private cars with maximum two passengers. Pillion-riding will not be allowed on two-wheelers.
While buses will start operating with a maximum 20 passengers, Metro services remain suspended, at least till May 31, when the lockdown will be up for review. All public transport facilities will have to be disinfected extensively at regular intervals, Kejriwal said.
The city’s restaurants can offer home delivery, but dining facilities remain barred. Pubs and bars cannot open, neither can shopping malls, which the Kejriwal government had wanted the Centre to allow.
Schools, colleges, other educational institutes, cinema halls, auditoriums, places of worship and swimming pools remain closed.
Stadiums and sports complexes can reopen, however spectators won’t be allowed at events. Non-essential activities will not be allowed between 7 pm and 7 am, which means an early end to the day for markets.
While underlining the need to gradually allow economic activities, the CM stressed on social distancing, maintaining hand hygiene and wearing masks, and indicated there would be more relaxations if the situation remained under control.
Though the Delhi government earlier said any relaxation may cause a spike in the number of cases, on Monday, addressing India TV’s e-conclave for CMs, Kejriwal stressed that only 10-20% of those diagnosed with coronavirus need hospitalisation. “We have 2,000 oxygen support equipped beds and 1,500-2,000 more are being arranged. We will have up to 4,000 beds for corona patients within the next few days and, if needed, more beds will be arranged. We have planned up to 10,000 beds… As of Monday, around 1,500 (cases) are in hospital while the rest are in Covid care centres or homes.”
He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision of a nationwide lockdown had been “timely” and prevented the situation from spiralling out of control.
Kejriwal also pointed out that Delhi’s case fatality rate was less as compared to other states. With its mortality numbers coming under a cloud, the CM said, “It is foolish to even think that death figures can be hidden in a place like Delhi, with a large media presence.”
In his webcast, the CM said the virus was unlikely to go till a vaccine was developed, adding, “The lockdown cannot be a permanent solution.”
He stressed the need to keep those aged above 65 and under 10, pregnant women and those with serious ailments indoors. He said the Delhi government is arranging to house safely the elderly whose family members test positive if they don’t have enough space in their house to isolate themselves.
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