Life limps back to normalcy amid COVID-19 threat as economic activities resume in Delhi

New Delhi, May 19 (PTI) Life was limping back to normalcy in most parts of Delhi with easing of the coronavirus-triggered restrictions after nearly two months on Tuesday, as there was significant vehicular movement and resumption of economic activities in the city.

Several markets in the national capital were buzzing with activity, but confusion prevailed over opening up of shops due to odd-even formula laid down by the Delhi government. All kinds of shops have been allowed to open.

Delhi also witnessed 60 per cent spike in vehicle volume from the usual 12,000 -15,000 during the earlier phases of the lockdown, a senior traffic official said.

Although metro services are yet to restart operations, public transport resumed with 2,000 buses as well as auto-rickshaws and taxis plying on the road, with a restricted number of passengers as per social distancing norms.

The industries too resumed operations, but many complained of shortage of labour and disruption of the supply chain.

The coronavirus death toll in Delhi has climbed to 166, while 500 fresh cases of COVID-19 infection reported on Tuesday, the highest single-day spike here, took the total in the city to 10,554, authorities said.

The previous highest spike of 472 fresh cases was recorded on May 14.

Delhi has been under lockdown since March 23, but the curbs were in place before that.

On Monday, the Delhi government announced significant opening of economic activities in the city, including resuming of DTC operations.

While popular markets like Connaught Place and Khan Market bore a deserted look, traders in markets like Tilak Nagar, Karol Bagh and Sarojini Nagar were seen cleaning their shops.

Connaught Place, which is the commercial hub in central Delhi, saw traders marking circles to ensure that visitors can ensure social distancing.

At Karol Bagh in central Delhi, Gaffar mobile market started functioning on an odd-even basis. Odd numbered shops remained open and many shopkeepers were busy setting their shop in order.

Hawkers who do repair works and odd jobs like replacing tempered glass on mobiles in the market were not to be seen.

However, a large number of people had gathered in the market to get repair work done. Market association and representatives police kept urging people to ensure social distancing.

In its guidelines issued on Monday, the Delhi government permitted opening of markets on an odd-even basis.

However, on ground there was disappointment as well as confusion over the opening of shops on an odd-even basis.

In a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Anil Baijal, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) urged them to reconsider the odd-even formula for opening of shops, observing that only five lakh shops could open in the city owing to the arrangement.

Khan Market traders said the odd-even rule cannot be effectively implemented in the market and they are figuring out the modalities as some stores opened in the posh market.

'We are a different market. Our shops are not even numbered in a way that we can implement the odd-even formula. And are the visitors going to visit the stores keeping the shop number and odd and even date in mind? There was absolutely nil business today.

'At least retail markets like ours, which are set up in a way that social distancing measures can easily be implemented, should be allowed to open completely,' Sanjeev Mehra, President, Khan Market Traders Association said.

The shopkeepers also complained that customer inflow was minimal.

Pravin Verma of Verma Jewellers at the Laxmi Nagar market, said, 'Everybody is concerned about customers. The situation is bad. It was not good earlier as well but coronavirus and lockdown have hit everybody hard and people are buying only essential items these days. Jewellery would be the last item on their mind.' After a lull of over two months, there were traffic snarls on the roads.

According to traffic officials, apart from border areas, jams were also witnessed at ITO, Yamuna Bridge and Sarai Kale Khan. Snarls were also reported at Barapulla flyover.

The strict checking by the Uttar Pradesh police at the border was cited as a major reason for heavy traffic at Noida-DND flyover and other bordering areas.

A senior traffic police official said heavy traffic was reported at the DND flyover as several vehicles queued up to enter Noida.

Taking to Twitter, Delhi Traffic Police alerted commuters travelling to Noida to plan their trip only if their vehicles have movement passes issued by authorities concerned.

The situation was no different even on the Delhi-Gurgaon border.

Transport minister Kailash Gahlot said the number of buses will increase in the days to come when more and more drivers, who reside in the neighbouring states, report for work.  The department is taking all the necessary precautions with resumption of public transport and urged people to wear masks and ensure social distancing, he said.

'Thermal scanning has been started at some terminals and bus stands. We will ensure it at all the busy bus stands. The government under leadership of Arvind Kejriwal is taking all the necessary steps,' he tweeted.

Gahlot said more than 2,000 buses were on the roads on Tuesday. Additionally, around 1,400 buses were kept at the disposal of Revenue and Police departments for movement of migrants to railway station and for law and order duties respectively, he said. PTI VIT GJS SLB AMP NIT KND PR KJ KJ