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DDMA rules out lockdown, dine-in services in restaurants likely to be prohibited

The decision not to impose a lockdown was taken at a meeting of the DDMA on Monday.

DDMA rules out lockdown, dine-in services in restaurants likely to be prohibited

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has decided against imposing a sweeping lockdown in the Capital amid rising Covid-19 cases, but said that some additional restrictions could kick in without causing any "disadvantage" to the public. Dine-in facilities at restaurants are likely to be prohibited in the coming days, but takeaways will be allowed, according to sources.

The decision not to impose a lockdown was taken at a meeting of the DDMA on Monday.

Delhi has been seeing a high number of daily Covid-19 cases – 22,751 single-day infections were reported on Sunday with a positivity rate of 23.5% – but with relatively low hospitalisation and faster recovery. More than 10,000 people recovered from the coronavirus disease just on Sunday.

Also, only around 1,800 beds in dedicated Covid-19 hospitals were occupied on Sunday even though the Capital had over 60,000 active cases.

Authorities in Delhi, including chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, have called on the public to avoid panicking over the current Covid-19 situation.

The DDMA reviewed the latest situation on Monday and held extensive discussions with experts, eventually deciding to opt for some additional curbs and not a Capital-wide lockdown. Delhi's lieutenant governor Anil Baijal chaired the DDMA meeting that was attended by CM Kejriwal, ministers, top officials and experts.

On Sunday, Delhi reported 17 Covid-related deaths - the most number of fatalities in a day since June 16 last year. Delhi's Covid-19 positivity rate on December 28 was less than 1%. The test positivity rate is now the highest since May 9 last year when it had touched a high of 21.67%.

During the last Covid wave, about 20,000 single-day cases were reported in Delhi on May 7. At that time, there were 341 Covid-related deaths, while 20,000 hospital beds were occupied.

On January 8, Delhi reported 20,000 infections, but there were only seven deaths while 1,500 beds have been occupied by Covid-19 patients.

In a briefing on Sunday, Kejriwal said there would be no need for a sweeping lockdown if everyone wears a mask. "We don't want to impose a lockdown and neither do we have plans to do so. We want that the wave subsides with minimum curbs. We don't want to hamper anyone's livelihood," the Delhi CM said.

Authorities have imposed curfews on weekends and nights, and have advised privately-run offices to ensure that at least 50% of their staff are working from home. All Delhi government employees have been asked to work remotely, except those engaged in essential and emergency services, such as fire brigade services, prison, water supply and health.

Shops inside malls and at marketplaces are operating on an odd-even basis between 10am and 8pm.

Currently, dining services at restaurants and bars are capped at 50% seating capacity on weekdays, and only takeaways are allowed during weekends. On weekdays, one weekly market in a zone is allowed to open, while local authorities have been asked to take steps to ensure crowd management. Only 20 people are allowed to attend weddings and funerals.

The DDMA also discussed the seating capacity for Delhi Metro trains and buses. Currently, 100% seating capacity in Metros and buses is allowed. The DDMA discussed whether the seating capacity should be reduced to 50%.

It was also discussed that economic and travel restrictions imposed in Delhi should also cover the National Capital Region (NCR) to prevent widespread rise in Covid-19 cases.

The graded response action plan spells out four levels of economic restrictions that come into force at different positivity rates. The lowest level of alert is classified as yellow alert, which came into force when the positivity rate breached 0.5% and stayed above it for two consecutive days. The highest level of alert is classified as red alert, which comes into force if 5% positivity rate breached and stayed there for two consecutive days.

Experts backed the DDMA's decision. Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung hospital, said drastic restrictions may not bring any further benefits because the existing restrictions including weekend curfew are already designed to restrict the movement of individuals and appear to have helped slow down the spread of the disease.

Traders had earlier appealed to the DDMA to not impose more curbs. The chamber of trade and industry had written to the DDMA, requesting that no additional restrictions or lockdown be imposed.

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