Relaxations in Covid-19 restrictions unlikely this week in Delhi


There are no plans yet to rollback some of the Covid-19-related restrictions on activities and movement of people, Delhi government officials privy to discussions said on Tuesday, even as the number of new cases grew at a significantly slower pace and the share of tests that turned positive also dropped.

There were a little under 12,000 cases on Tuesday, the second day this was under 15,000, and the positivity rate clocked in at 22.47%. Last week, Delhi’s health minister Satyendar Jain said some curbs, like the weekend curfew, could be rolled back if new cases stay under 15,000.

An official aware of the planning said the situation will be monitored further before relaxations are made. “There is going to be no relaxation in the ongoing restrictions in Delhi this week. Restrictions will continue till the situation comes in grip. The weekend lockdown will continue this weekend (January 22-23),” said this person, a senior official, who asked not to be named.

The decisions on restrictions are taken by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), which is headed by lieutenant governor Anil Baijal. A second senior official said no meeting of the DDMA has been scheduled this week so far. “It is likely that status quo will be maintained on all the previous DDMA orders this week. In all likelihood, the matter may be reviewed early next week ahead of Republic Day (January 26),” said this person, asking not to be named.

A third official, from the health department, too said they will wait to see how the trend in cases holds. “We will be assessing the situation for a few more days,” this person said, while adding that if a recommendation will then be sent to the DDMA accordingly.

Chief secretary Vijay Dev directed all concerned teams to increase Covid-19 testing from Wednesday, the first official quoted above added. The directive came after the ministry of health, in a letter dated January 17 (Monday), asked all states and Union Territories (UTs) to immediately increase testing in a strategic manner.

The Centre said it seemed from data that testing declined in many states and UTs, although the drop likely took place due to a change in guidelines that said people without symptoms need not be tested.

A host of restrictions are in place in Delhi, including a weekend curfew, a night curfew and a ban on high-risk, non-essential activities such as dining at a restaurant or going to a cinema.

Shops and malls are allowed to operate only on odd-even basis on weekdays and restaurants can only offer take-out meals.

These rules have been criticised by businesses, which say that they are excessive since the city’s health infrastructure has adequate capacity to deal with even larger numbers of cases as the variant now causing infections is less likely to lead to serious disease.

The New Delhi traders’ association (NDTA) on Tuesday wrote to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal urging him to allow all shops to operate on all weekdays till 8 pm. They requested that the existing rule of running shops in markets and malls in odd-even manner be lifted. “Please note that by adopting an odd-even process, the crowd increases in front of a shop. Crowds will only reduce if all shops are allowed to open regularly till 8 pm,” wrote Atul Bhargava, president of NDTA.

(With inputs from Soumya Pillai)

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