Coronavirus lockdown: Shops selling essentials will remain open 24X7 in Delhi

New Delhi, Mar 26 (PTI) The Delhi government will allow shops selling essential items such as groceries and vegetables to operate round the clock to ease rush of people during the 21-day lockdown imposed to combat coronavirus, Lt Governor Anil Baijal said on Thursday.

In a joint digital press conference with Baijal at 12 noon, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that one case of coronavirus was reported in Delhi in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of such cases to 36.

He said that among the 36 cases, 26 people were those who returned from abroad recently.

E-commerce companies in the national capital can carry out home delivery of essential commodities as their employees' identity cards will be considered valid during the lockdown, the chief minister said.

Subdivisional magistrates and assistant commissioners of police have been directed to ensure shops selling groceries, vegetables and milk remain open and essential items are adequately stocked in their respective areas, the lieutenant governor said.

Baijal said that as a special measure, grocery and essential supplies stores will be allowed to operate round the clock.

This will help in staggering customer visits and maintaining social distancing norms, he added.

In view of the lockdown, Baijal directed the authorities concerned to keep strict check on prices of essential items, including medicines, and also take penal action against hoarding and black-marketing.

According to the chief minister, people are largely keeping indoors and the situation is 'under control' but more caution was needed to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

He said despite a Mohalla Clinic doctor and his family testing positive for coronavirus, the centres will not be closed and all precautions are being taken.

'We will continue to conduct test on doctors, paramedical staff who are engaged in treating COVID-19 patients,' the chief minister said.

Kejriwal said that Delhi government has decided and issued orders that the e-commerce delivery of essential services should not stop in Delhi.  'The company ID cards of these delivery people will be accepted as their proof and will be allowed to travel,' he said.

Earlier in the day, Baijal and Kejriwal held a video conference with district magistrates and deputy commissioners of police to review enforcement of lockdown, social distancing and supply of essential commodities and medicines in the national capital.

According to a statement issued by the LG's office, the lieutenant governor and the chief minister instructed DMs to coordinate with various agencies and engage with NGOs, voluntary associations for provision of food for the homeless and destitute.  They stressed on maintaining social distancing at all times, including a points where free food is being provided, it stated.

The statement stated that the LG also instructed authorities for personal monitoring of helplines, identification of trends of grievances or complaints and raise levels according to the requirement.

The LG also reviewed the preparedness and action taken by health department to contain COVID-19 outbreak.  Secretary (health) informed that they are monitoring upcoming testing facilities by private hospitals.  'Mandatory COVID-19 testing for frontline workers is in progress. Health department is also preparing second line of health volunteers...,' it also stated.

The number of coronavirus cases climbed to 649 in India on Thursday and the death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 13.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address had announced that from Wednesday onwards there will be a total lockdown in the country for 21 days and told people to stay at home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. PTI VIT BUN SMN SMN