Precautions to continue, but no lockdown yet: CM Kejriwal

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The Delhi government does not plan to impose a lockdown if everyone follows Covid-appropriate behaviour amid sharply rising Covid-19 cases in the national capital because hospitalisations are low and there is no need to panic, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday.

Delhi on Sunday reported 22,751 Covid-19 cases, with a test positivity rate of 23.53%. The city also reported 17 deaths, most fatalities in a day since June 16 last year.

“There would be no need for a lockdown if everyone wears a mask. We don’t want to impose a lockdown and neither do we have plans to do so,” Kejriwal said in a digital news briefing. “We want that the wave subsides with minimum curbs. We don’t want to hamper anyone’s livelihoods.” The chief minister also announced his recovery from Covid-19 on Twitter after seven days of isolation.

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“During the last Covid wave, 20,000 single day cases were reported on May 7, 2021, but there were 341 deaths and 20,000 hospital beds were occupied,” the chief minister said. “Delhi reported 20,000 cases on January 8, but there were only seven deaths and 1,500 beds are occupied.”

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority has called a meeting on Monday to discuss the Covid-19 situation with experts and top officials, and to decide if the Capital needs more restrictions to check the spread.

The city added 20,181 fresh cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, and 19.6% tests returned positive results, according to the government’s daily health bulletin. Delhi’s test positivity rate is the highest it has been since May 9 last year, when the statistic hit 21.67%. Delhi’s Covid positivity rate on December 28 was less than 1%.

Authorities have imposed weekend and night curfews, and advised private offices to ensure at least 50% of their staff work from home. All Delhi government employees have been asked to work from home, except those engaged in essential and emergency services such as fire services, prison, water supply and health.

Shops in malls and markets are operating on an odd-even basis between 10am and 8pm. Dining services at restaurants and bars are capped at 50% seating capacity on weekdays, and only takeaways are allowed during the weekend curfew. On weekdays, one weekly market in a zone is allowed to open every day and local authorities have been asked to take steps to ensure crowd management. Only 20 people are allowed to attend weddings and funerals.

The graded response action plan spells out four different levels of economic restrictions that come into force at different positivity rates. The lowest level of alert is classified as yellow alert, which came into force when the positivity rate breached 0.5% and stayed above it for two consecutive days. The highest level of alert is classified as red alert, which comes into force if 5% positivity rate is breached and stays there for two consecutive days.

However, the current restrictions are likely to continue and an immediate intensification of curbs is not expected, officials said.

The weekend curfew is designed to restrict movement and will help slow down the spread of infections, according to Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the epidemiology and communicable diseases department in the Indian Council of Medical Research.

“The experience of different Omicron-hit countries of the world shows that the number of cases will further increase in the country, especially in the weeks to come. The peak is likely to reach in the first week of February,” Dr Kant said. “People should avoid meeting other people, avoid gatherings and comply with the guidelines.”

Additional restrictions would not bring any further benefits, said Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung hospital. “The poor need work and food. Health services also get affected due to curfew, which may have effect on overall health conditions of the people,” Dr Kishore said.

Traders have appealed to the government to not impose more curbs. The Chamber of Trade and Industry has written a letter to DDMA, demanding that no additional restrictions or lockdown be imposed.

“The DDMA should consider hospital occupancy and not positivity rate for imposing curbs,” the lobby group’s chairman Brijesh Goyal said. “Many infected patients are recovering in home isolation and there is no panic, unlike what was witnessed in the previous wave. If more restrictions are imposed, traders and employees engaged in their business establishments will be hit badly.”

The government should not hold back more curbs if the experts feel that the situation demands it, said Pankaj Agrawal, general secretary of Delhi RWAs Joint Front, a collective of residents associations. “The Omicron variant is rapidly spreading and the health of the citizens should be the top priority of the government,” said Agrawal.

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