Significant easing of lockdown in Delhi, shops to open from Tues; COVID-19 cases cross 10,000-mark

New Delhi, May 18 (PTI) Delhi will see a significant easing of lockdown from May 19 with opening of shops in markets on an odd-even basis and running of buses, auto and taxis, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said, even as the city's total tally of COVID-19 cases crossed the 10,000-mark.

However, metro services, schools, colleges, cinema halls and salons will remain closed, the chief minister said.

Wearing masks and following social distancing norms are mandatory in the city, Kejriwal said, adding that no activity will be permitted in containment zones, except for essential services.

The death toll due to coronavirus in Delhi mounted to 160, a health bulletin said. A total of 299 fresh cases were recorded while the total number of active cases stood at 5,409.

With this, Delhi has become the fourth place, where the total cases have crossed the 10,000-mark. Maharashtra has 33,055 COVID-19 cases, Gujarat 11,379 and Tamil Nadu 11,224, according to data shared on the union heath ministry website.

According to a PTI tally, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country crossed the 1 lakh-mark.

Among the fresh cases, includes a teacher of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation and a Delhi Jal Board employee, officials said.

Addressing an online media briefing here, Kejriwal said, 'We have to gradually move towards opening the economy. We used the lockdown period to make arrangements to deal with COVID-19.' In Delhi, the curbs were announced much before the nationwide lockdown was imposed. Kejriwal in the past has highlighted adverse economic impact of the lockdown.

The easing of curbs is likely to provide much-needed relief to shopkeepers who have their establishment in markets.

All kinds of shops will be allowed to open. Restaurants can open for home-delivery and takeaways but dining facilities will not be permitted, he said.

'Shops in markets will open on odd-even basis. Standalone shops, neighbourhood shops and shops in residential complex will remain open,' he said.

'If social distancing is not maintained by a shopkeeper, his or her shop will be closed by authorities,' Kejriwal warned.

While market hubs like Khan Market in Lutyens Delhi to commercial hub Connaught Place, will open from Tuesday, following the odd-even formula prescribed by the Delhi government, several others like Sadar Bazar and the Chandni Chowk market will remain closed.

'We will open tomorrow and follow the odd-even directive as per the government's order. Connaught Place has been set up in such a way that it will not be difficult to ensure social distancing measures.

'We are however, disappointed with the odd-even restrictions. Rather than applying same rule to all markets, the government should take decision market wise,” Atul Bhagava, President, New Delhi Traders Association (NDTA), said.

Sanjeev Mehra, President, Khan Market Traders Association, said, 'Though we have our reservations against the formula and the guidelines, we will resume operations tomorrow.' Manohar Lal Kumar, Chairman Bhartiya Udyog Vypar Mandal, Sadar Bazar, said the market will not open on Tuesday and they will decide the further course of action.

 'We will discuss the Delhi government's order and decide on opening the shops on Tuesday. There are provisions like timing and social distancing norm that need to be looked in,' he said.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) also opposed the odd-even formula for opening of shops saying, the government should not keep base of odd-even for markets since it will be a setback for the traders.

Although metro services will remain shut, bus services will be operational but with strict norms.

People boarding buses in the city will have to be screened first, Kejriwal said, adding that four-wheeler vehicles, including taxis, will be allowed with only two passengers.

Two-wheelers will be permitted but no pillion riders, the chief minister said.

Drivers of taxis, auto rickshaws and cabs will, however, have to disinfect the sitting area of passengers after every trip. Car-sharing and car-pooling will not be allowed by cab aggregators in the city, Kejriwal said.

'All government and private offices have been permitted to operate with their entire staff. But, private offices should try to work from home,' he said.

Construction activities and trucks carrying goods will be allowed in Delhi, he added.

Religious gatherings are barred in the city till May 31. A total of 50 people can attend marriage functions, while 20 people can take part in funerals, Kejriwal said.

In a late-night order, the Delhi government said industrial establishments in the city will be permitted to function in staggered business hours and directed RWAs to not prevent anyone allowed by authorities from performing duty.

On Sunday, the Centre extended the coronavirus-triggered lockdown in the country till May 31 while giving more relaxations.

Meanwhile, the movement of migrant workers from Delhi-NCR continued all through the day.

In a war of words, the ruling AAP in Delhi and the BJP blamed one another for the plight of migrant workers moving en masse to their home states due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown.

Senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh alleged that the current situation pertaining to migrants had 'exposed' the BJP and it had become clear that they are an anti-poor and pro-rich party.  BJP's Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Ramvir Bidhuri, however, blamed the AAP for being responsible for the exodus of migrant workers from Delhi. PTI BUN VIT KND SLB GJS GVS PR KJ KJ

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