New Delhi: Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday announced a six-day lockdown in Delhi, starting from 2200 hrs tonight till 0500 hrs of April 26 in the wake of an unstoppable surge in the coronavirus cases.
Delhi has been recording nearly 25,000 cases of Covid-19 for the past three to four days, leading to a drastic increase in active cases, scarcity of beds, medical oxygen, and anti-viral drugs in hospitals and other places.
“It is felt that in order to contain the fast spread of the virus, curfew needs to be imposed in the territory of NCT of Delhi, except for essential services, as an emergency measure, in order to break the chain of COVID-19 transmission,” an order released by the government read.
As per the order, during the six-day-long lockdown period, people working in emergency and essential services will be allowed to move on the production of a valid I-card, pregnant women, patients, and attendants can visit hospitals, vaccination centers will remain open and people will be allowed to board flights, trains and buses.
Moreover, media persons are exempted and so are fruits, vegetables vendors, grocery stores, banks, ATMs, petrol pumps, chemist shops, manufacturing units of essentials, cold storages and restaurants offering takeaways or home delivery.
Only 50 people will be allowed to attend a marriage while 20 in the funeral, read the order. Also, all other gatherings are prohibited while all religious places will remain closed.
Addressing a digital press conference, Mr Kejriwal said, “The number of beds in the Delhi hospitals is falling short…..If strict measures are not taken now, the health system in Delhi can collapse.”
As per the Delhi government website, only 57 ICU Covid beds and 3,347 non-ICU beds were available across hospitals at 1830 hrs.
The Chief Minister said in this period of lockdown, the Delhi government would arrange for a large number of beds and utilise this time to arrange for oxygen and medicines.
Recalling last year’s havoc when hundreds of migrants left the city for hinterland via foot, bicycle or any possible means during the lockdown fearing poverty and hunger, Mr Kejriwal urged the migrants, labourers and others to remain calm as it is only a six-day lockdown and full arrangements are in place for their needs.
“I have full faith that this short period of lockdown would not be extended. I assure you, the government will take full care of you. I am here, have faith in me,” the Delhi Chief Minister said.
But in the afternoon, the Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) near Kashmiri Gate was dotted with people who were trying their best to leave Delhi.
“Last year’s memory is still fresh. I want to leave Delhi before it gets late,” Ram Prakash, a 28-year-old labourer from Bulandshahar (Uttar Pradesh) told mediaperson while waiting for a bus with his wife and two children.
A huge rush was also witnessed at several Kendriya Bhandar. “Cases are rising and lockdown can be extended. I can’t take a risk of shortage of groceries as I have younger children and parents to feed at home,” 42-year-old Ramesh Singh told media while holding two large bags full of groceries at a store near Lodhi Road.
A similar scene, but for a different reason, was witnessed liquor shops, where people lined up as soon as the announcement was made. “I am addicted and cannot survive without alcohol. Hence I am here,” a 33-year-old man told media on the condition of anonymity, while waiting for his turn at liquor shop in Saket.
But 55-year-old Virendra, a resident of Sheikh Sarai, had a different opinion. “My both kids are working. I am also a government employee. We were very scared of spiraling cases. But now I am a bit relieved as we all can sit at home and remain safe,” he told the media.
Delhi on Sunday slept under a weekend curfew imposed since Friday to trim the transmission. But, Mr Kejriwal said nearly 23,500 fresh cases have been recorded in the past 24 hours, a sign to worry.