Nearly six months after they were suspended due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown, metro rail services are set to resume in Delhi today. The Delhi government has, reportedly, been keen to restart operations since June but the Centre has favoured a more cautious approach. Now, as metro services commence in a “graded manner”, the yellow line will be the first to be functional and the trains on other routes will resume in the next five days. “Adequate dwell time at stations will be provided to enable smooth boarding/deboarding and ensuring social distancing. Metro rail corporations may also resort to skipping of stations to ensure proper social distancing,” an SOP issued last week says. Delhi’s transport minister Kailash Gahlot has assured that his government will make sure that the metro does not add to the spread of the pandemic. The Delhi government must also ensure that its medical infrastructure is equipped to deal with any uptick in the capital’s caseload.
It’s more than two months that markets, restaurants and other business establishments have resumed operations in the National Capital Region (NCR). But the unlocking of public transport has not kept pace with the opening up of the economy. This has not only inconvenienced workers but also contributed to low customer footfall in several sectors. Getting the metro, which transports about 25 lakh passengers daily, back on track, therefore, had become critical to reviving business after the lockdown. At the same time, given the volume of commuters, the resumption of the metro’s services is also significant from a public health standpoint — especially because Delhi is witnessing another surge in infections. After being down to less than 1,000 cases for most of July and August, the city has been recording in excess of 2,000 cases daily for more than a week. Experts believe that the prolonged decline could have induced complacency, leading to a drop in compliance with physical distancing norms. With the two rounds of sero surveys in Delhi indicating a large number of asymptomatic carriers of the infection in the capital, the metro authorities will have to be vigilant against any letting down of the guard.
The Delhi government maintains that it is equipped to deal with any COVID-related emergency. That more than 1,000 COVID beds are vacant in the city’s hospitals, and these health facilities have adequate ventilators, offers hope that the situation will not get out of hand. Even so, the Delhi government and its residents must remain vigilant when the metro is back on the rails.