Delhi announces lockdown till Apr 26; Kejriwal says necessary to tackle rapid surge of COVID cases

·5-min read

New Delhi, Apr 19 (PTI) Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a six-day lockdown in the national capital from 10 pm on Monday till 5 am on April 26 and said it was necessary to deal with the rising number of COVID-19 cases as the city's health system was stretched to its limit.

The announcement, which came at the end of a weekend curfew, bought back the memories of last year's lockdown and triggered usual responses from people -- migrant workers rushing to railway stations and bus terminals in a bid to return home, residents flocking to markets to stock up on essentials, and tipplers joining in long, serpentine queues outside liquor stores.

Thousands of migrant workers gathered at the city's inter-state bus terminals and railway stations to return home even though Kejriwal appealed to them with folded hands not to leave Delhi and gave a word of assurance -- 'Main hoon na' (I am here for you).

Addressing an online press conference, the CM sought to assure the migrant workers by saying that this short period of lockdown would not be extended.

'I have full faith that this short period of lockdown would not be extended. We might not have to extend it. Trust me that if we fight this together, we would be able to overcome this. I assure you, the government will take full care of you. I am here, have faith in me,' he said.

The chief minister said that the national capital's health system is tremendously stretched although it has not collapsed yet, and added that despite around 25,500 cases coming up every day, it is still functioning.

But any system has its limit, he said, assuring that the lockdown is needed to prevent the health system of Delhi from collapsing under the increasing number of patients as there is an acute shortage of medicines, beds, ICUs and oxygen.

'If we do not impose a lockdown now, we might face a tragedy. We do not want Delhi to face such a situation wherein patients are lying on the corridors or losing their life on the streets at any cost,' he said.

Noting that the decision of imposing new restrictions was not an easy one, Kejriwal said that he has been strictly against a lockdown even as it becomes crucial only after the health system of the city reaches its limit.

This ensures that the number of patients reduces and the health system revives, the chief minister said. Essential services will be allowed during the lockdown.

In its order, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority said during the curfew, up to 50 people will be permitted to attend a wedding, but they will have to show soft or hard copy of the marriage card. For funerals, 20 people will be allowed to attend.

Private offices and other establishments such as shops, malls, weekly markets, manufacturing units, educational and coaching institutes, cinema halls, restaurants, bars, assembly halls, auditoriums, public parks, sport complexes, gyms, spas, barber shops, saloons and beauty parlours will remain closed.

In the order, the DDMA said that swimming pools (except those being used for training of sportspersons for participation in national and international events), construction activities (except where labourers are residing onsite) will also remain shut.

Stadia will be permitted to remain open for organising national and international sports events without spectators, said Chief Secretary Vijay Dev, who is also the chairperson of the DDMA's executive committee.

It stated that public transport such as metro and buses with their 50 per cent capacity will be allowed to run. In taxis, not more than two people will be allowed.

According to the DDMA, e-passes obtained by a person for movement connected to essential goods and services during night curfew and weekend curfew will also be valid for the six-day restrictions.

The announcement of a week-long lockdown led to people flocking to markets to stock groceries, essentials and run other errands.

In the press conference on Monday, Kejriwal said, 'Since Corona emerged a year ago, I have come in front of you (Delhiites) from time to time, keeping all facts and the situation at hand in front of you and discussing the same with you.

'One thing we have always upheld, we never gave out wrong information, never lied to you, and presented the situation as it is. If the situation was good, we informed you, and even if it wasn't we told you honestly.' He said that the AAP government never concealed facts and figures of tests, cases or deaths.

During the lockdown, pregnant women and patients going for medical services along with an attendant will be allowed on production of valid I-card or doctor's prescription or medical papers. People who are going for COVID-19 testing or vaccination are also exempted on the production of a valid I-card.

Those going to airports, railways, ISBTs have been allowed movement, but they will have to show a valid ticket. Electronic and print mediapersons have also been exempted from the restrictions.

Meanwhile, traders' associations welcomed the six-day lockdown.

'It was a much-needed step to break the chain of infection,” said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).

Long, serpentine queues were seen outside liquor shops in Delhi soon after the announcement of lockdown on Monday, with tipplers braving the sun for hours and occasionally breaking into heated arguments.

Delhi has been reporting around 25,000 COVID-19 cases daily in the past few days.

A weekend curfew was in force in the national capital from Friday evening to Monday morning. PTI VIT GVS GJS NIT AMP BUN SMN