5,506 fresh COVID cases in Delhi, minister says earlier record could be breached if trend continues

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New Delhi, Apr 7 (PTI) Delhi reported over 5,500 fresh COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the sharpest daily spike this year, with Health Minister Satyender Jain cautioning that given the pace of the spread of the infection, the cases might breach the city's single-day record registered in November last year.

The highest single-day spike in Delhi till date -- 8,593 cases -- was reported on November 11, while on November 19, the city recorded 131 COVID-19 deaths, the highest single-day fatality count till date.

While people rushed to get e-passes after a night curfew was imposed in the national capital on Tuesday, an exceptional rush was witnessed at the New Delhi railway station with people lining up in serpentine queues, in a rewind to last year's scenes, although officials said it was an 'usual' occurrence.

'It seems that it could cross the old record as per the pace of spread. The seriousness of the problem is that the cases have crossed the 5,000-mark in about three weeks, unlike in earlier months, when it was below 200,' Jain told a press conference.

He, however, said it will be too early to speculate on that as of now and that government efforts are on to contain the incidences as effectively as possible, and urged people to follow all the safety norms.

Delhi recorded 5,506 fresh COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, while 20 more people died of the viral disease, taking the death toll to 11,133, according to the city health department.

The positivity rate also breached the six per cent-mark (6.1 per cent) amid a massive surge in cases in the last few weeks.

This was the second consecutive day when over 5,000 fresh coronavirus cases were reported.

The health minister, however, said Delhi's positivity rate is still lower than the other states.

'We need to focus on containing it further,' he said, adding that the night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am was imposed in the national capital to avoid unnecessary crowds that could cause the virus to spread further.

Jain defended the move to impose the night curfew even as some experts have questioned its efficacy by saying it is a 'temporary' measure.

'We took the decision to impose the night curfew as reports were coming about parties and gatherings being held in various parts of the city. Given the situation right now, one person can spread to everyone else in a gathering and to more people, so we took the step,' he said.

However, it is 'not a harsh step' and there are various categories of exemption, he said, adding that the restaurants in the city usually operate till 11 pm and in view of public safety, they have to close only an hour early.

After the imposition of the night curfew at 10 pm on Tuesday, a total of 73,154 applications were received for the e-passes, of which 34,759 were rejected and 30,940 were pending by 12 noon on Wednesday, according to official figures.

'Most of the applications were rejected as the applicants did not fall in the exempted categories according to the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) order,' a district administration official said.

According to police officials, over 200 people were booked for allegedly violating the night curfew. According to data shared by the police, 220 cases for such violations were registered.

'A total of 534 people were booked under sections 65 (persons bound to comply with the reasonable directions of a police officer) and 107 (security for keeping the peace in other cases) of the Delhi Police Act and section 151 (arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences) of the CrPC,' a police officer said.

The police issued 842 challans to people for not wearing masks, he added.

Meanwhile, the ongoing vaccination drive against COVID-19 slumped on Wednesday with just 41,412 people reportedly taking the shots by 6 pm, as against the higher numbers witnessed in the past.

People lined up in serpentine queues at the New Delhi railway station, in a rewind to last year's scenes when thousands of daily wage workers and others left for their homes in villages and towns across the country.

The authorities, however, maintained that the rush was 'usual' during this time of the year due to the wedding season and wheat harvesting in different parts of the country.

'There is no surge (in travel).... Only bona fide passengers with reserved tickets are getting in. We see such crowds at regular periods. Any speculative reporting may please be avoided, especially in such challenging circumstances. One wrong input can create chaos,' spokesperson for the Indian Railways D J Narain said. PTI KND VIT AMP NIT ASG GJS RC