As cases spike, city caps guests for weddings, other gatherings
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on Saturday reintroduced restrictions on the number of people allowed in any gathering, including weddings and funerals, in view of the expanding Covid-19 footprint in the national capital, where fresh cases have hit their highest levels since mid-December.
On Saturday, Delhi added 1,558 new Covid-19 cases and 10 more deaths — the highest number of fatalities the city has recorded in a single day in over two months. The last time this fatality number was reported in Delhi in a day was on January 23. The national capital reported more than 1,000 cases for the fifth consecutive day on Saturday.
In an order issued by chief secretary Vijay Dev on Saturday evening, DDMA stated that gatherings in closed spaces, such as banquet halls, will be capped at 50% of their capacity, or a maximum of 100 people.
DDMA has capped gatherings in open spaces at a maximum of 200 people. In funerals or functions related to last rites, DDMA has now restricted the number of people to 50.
Until this order was issued, gatherings of up to 200 people were allowed in closed spaces in the city. There was no such limit for gatherings in open spaces or grounds.
“The Covid-19 situation has been reviewed and it has been decided that status quo should be maintained in NCT of Delhi with regard to permissible/prohibited activities as per aforesaid DDMA orders. However, ceiling of persons in marriage, banquet halls, other gatherings/congregations and in funeral/last rites in NCT of Delhi needs to be imposed,” the order read.
These limits will be in place till April 30, or till another order is issued in the matter, whichever is earlier.
All permitted activities are allowed only outside containment zones.
Covid-19 cases in Delhi have spiked significantly over the past two weeks, amid the emergence of a second wave of infections across the country. The city has now added over 1,500 new cases for three days straight. The test positivity rate, which experts regard as a crucial metric to gauge the spread of an infection, has also climbed in this time.
The positivity rate in Delhi fell to an all-time low of 0.17% on February 16, but has increased substantially since then. This number stayed below 1% in Delhi for 82 days, before it breached that mark on March 20. On Saturday, this touched 1.70%.
Delhi’s testing also hit a single-day high on Saturday, with 91,703 samples collected on the day. However, only 65% of these used the RT-PCR method, while the rest were conducted using antigen kits, which are less accurate. In comparison, on Delhi’s last single-day testing high on March 7, when the city collected 91,614 samples, over 77% of these were conducted using RT-PCR kits.
On average, the city has been testing over 80,600 samples daily for the last seven days
Officials said the move came after the government observed that people did not abide by Covid-19 guidelines in gatherings
“The DDMA had on January 31 this year relaxed restrictions on gatherings, including in weddings and funerals. With Delhi seeing an uptick in cases again, it was observed that large congregations such as weddings are taking place with little regard for Covid-appropriate behaviour,” said a senior government official, who asked not to be named.
The Covid-19 pandemic turned the Capital’s extravagant weddings into low-key affairs with restrictions on gatherings, and sanitisers, social distancing and masks becoming the new normal.
DDMA first lifted the restriction of allowing only 50 people in weddings on October 31 last year. In banquet halls and closed spaces, DDMA then allowed up to 200 persons for weddings, while for open spaces the decision on the number of guests was left on the district administration depending on the area of the open space.
But, after Delhi was hit by the third and its most severe Covid wave, DDMA revised its order on November 18 and once again, reduced the number of guests to 50 at all such events. It was only on January 31 that the DDMA relaxed the norm again.
Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the department of epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research, said the Covid-19 numbers are likely to increase further in the coming weeks. “It is a good move and was much needed at this time. People have stopped following Covid-19 appropriate norms. This is seen in marketplaces the most,” he said.