Capital to ease further restrictions from Monday
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Saturday that restrictions, including those on markets and transport, were relaxed in the capital after a seven-week lockdown necessitated by a devastating fourth wave of Covid cases. 19 which invaded the city’s health system and led to shortages of essential medical supplies.
Delhi Metro trains will be allowed to run at 50 percent of seating capacity, and stores in markets and malls will be able to reopen on an odd-even basis from Monday, the chief minister saying the economy of the national capital had to be relaunched given the improved situation of the Covid-19. The test positivity rate fell to 0.53%, according to the daily government health bulletin.
Delhi added 414 cases on Saturday as the city’s fourth and worst wave of Covid-19 infections continued to decline, prompting government officials to focus on phasing out lockdown restrictions while preparing for the advance to another potential outbreak.
On Saturday, the government eased restrictions on free-standing stores, markets and malls, and allowed private and government offices to open with half their workforce. The new rules will take effect from 5 a.m. on Monday.
“The Covid-19 situation in Delhi appears to be improving, and with that in mind, we started the unlock process last week. It is necessary to get the economy back on track now. Last week we opened up the construction and factory sectors… The situation appears to be under control and by the grace of God should continue to remain under control, ”Kejriwal said.
At its peak during the April-May surge, Delhi added 28,395 cases of infection in a single day on April 20 – the highest number the city has seen since the pandemic began in March of the last year. The high number of daily cases and the positivity rate have forced the Delhi government to extend the lockdown every week since April 19. It has been extended six times.
Kejriwal said markets and malls will open from Monday, but daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. “This means that half of the stores will be operational one day and the other half the next day. It will be based on the store numbers. On any given day, only 50% of the stores in a mall, shopping complex or market will be open, ”he said.
However, restaurants, bars and food courts in the city will remain closed and only take-out or delivery will be allowed, senior government officials said.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has issued an ordinance regarding the new rules in which it allows autonomous and neighborhood stores to operate daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. This means that these stores do not have to operate on an even-odd basis.
In malls and markets, however, stores selling essentials, including books, stationery, fans, air conditioners and coolers, will be allowed to open daily. Liquor stores in Delhi will open from Monday, but on an odd-even basis. Weekly markets, gymnasiums, spas, lounges, auditoriums and swimming pools remain banned this week as well.
After the DDMA order, the Delhi Metro announced that it would resume service with trains running at a frequency of 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the route / line. Entrance to stations will be regulated by identified gates. Passengers will not be allowed to get inside the cars.
Anuj Dayal, executive director (corporate communications), Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said that on Monday only half of the available trains will be put into service. He said the DMRC was also writing to authorities responsible for maintaining public order outside metro stations to deal with the rush.
“The number of trains will be inducted at full power on a graduated basis by Wednesday and thereafter, services will be available at the normal frequency that was available before the lockdown. In order to ensure social distancing and respect for 50% of seats inside trains, the public are also advised to take extra time for their daily commute and to display appropriate behavior at Covid at the outside stations and also while waiting for his turn to enter the station, ”Dayal mentioned.
Passengers with an e-pass or employer ID will be allowed to travel on state-run DTC or cluster buses. There has also been no change in the two-passenger-per-vehicle rule for taxi, auto-rickshaw and e-rickshaw travel.
The DDMA allowed government and private offices to operate, but with 50% staff. “All private offices can be opened to 50% of the workforce between 9 am and 5 pm. But efforts should be made to ensure that more people are working from home. Private offices should try to stagger their working hours to make sure everyone doesn’t go out at the same time, ”Kejriwal said.
Individuals making e-commerce deliveries will continue to be permitted. In addition, tax services such as the Property Register will reopen in all District Magistrates (DM) and Sub-Division Magistrates (SDM) offices.
The unlocking rules received mixed reactions on Saturday. Atul Goyal, chairman of United Residents Joint Action (URJA), an organization that unites 2,500 RWAs in the city, said the relaxations were needed to resume economic activities for people, most of whom are suffering significant losses in some form or another.
“We welcome the order of the Delhi government. But that seems to compromise somewhat the vigilance a state needs to prevent a more serious third wave (fifth for Delhi). The contracts could have been authorized for a shorter period. Allowing everyone to open for 10 hours is a bit dangerous, even if it would be on an odd-even basis, ”Goyal said.
Sanjay Bhargava, chairman of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said the rule of an e-pass or ID for traders and its employees in the DDMA order was difficult. “The CM said that apart from these relaxations, the curfew would remain as it is. The order also implies the same thing. Isn’t it unfair that merchants and their employees have been asked to obtain e-passes and IDs when nothing is required for customers? ” he said.
A senior government official said customers won’t need an e-pass to visit the markets.
Dr T Jacob John, former head of the virology department at Christian Medical College-Vellore, said that although cases have declined, there is a need to ensure 100% masking and social distancing. “It’s the best way to prevent transmission, better than the vaccine itself. But for that to happen, we need people’s participation and behavior change, ”he said.