Delhi lockdown relaxation to begin from May 31: Arvind Kejriwal
- Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the number of new cases recorded in the last 24 hours has dropped to around 1,600 and the positivity rate was less than 2.5%.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday extended the ongoing lockdown in the Capital by another week but said that a phased relaxation will begin from May 31 if the Covid-19 case trajectory and positivity rate continue to decline.
He also expressed concerns over vaccine shortage in the light of a potential third wave of Covid-19 in the country, while stressing on the need to prepare against it.
“In the last 24 hours, we asked several sections of people what to do and the larger opinion is that the lockdown should be extended by another week. If we open everything now, there is a risk that we may lose all gains on the Covid-19 front we have made over the last one month. The lockdown was supposed to last till 5 am tomorrow. Now, we have decided to extend it till 5 am next Monday (May 31),” said Kejriwal in a live streamed video press briefing.
He further said, “However, if the curve continues to decline like this for a week, we will start a phased un-lockdown process from May 31. We cannot open everything at one go. There is an immense risk in it. So, the relaxations have to be implemented in a phased way. I hope people will cooperate in this.”
Delhi has had four distinct waves of Covid-19. The last one which started in late-March – coinciding with the second wave in the country – was the most severe and left the healthcare system in the capital overwhelmed. Further, a shortage of medical oxygen and medicines contributed to more deaths. At its peak, Delhi recorded 28,395 cases on April 20 and a positivity rate of more than 36% on April 22.
In his Sunday briefing, the chief minister said that the number of new cases recorded in the last 24 hours has dropped to around 1,600 and the positivity rate was less than 2.5%. With that, Delhi recorded a positivity rate of less than 5% -- World Health Organisation’s (WHO) benchmark for Covid-19 cases being under control– for three consecutive days.
On April 17-18, a weekend curfew was imposed in Delhi, which was turned into a full lockdown from April 20. This is the fifth time the ongoing lockdown has been extended.
Dr Puneet Misra, professor of community medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, said: “The city cannot remain under a complete lockdown forever. That is understandable. Before relaxing the lockdown, Delhi should ideally have a positivity rate of less than 5% for at least one week. Cases are declining and they are likely to further decline by May 31. A phased re-opening of important economic activities can be considered at that point. Also, people must remember that they cannot let their guards down like they did before the second wave of the pandemic hit India. For governments, this is also the time to scale up vaccination.”
The move was welcomed by traders and resident welfare associations too.
Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of Confederation of All India Traders, said the strategy of phased opening of lockdown depending on the Covid-19 situation was sound. "Relaxing the lockdown at this point and at one go could have led to a surge in cases again. The government, however, should consider giving some compensation to traders whose income have been affected by the lockdown but they still have to pay salaries, rent, taxes, etc,” he said.
Saurabh Gandhi, general secretary of United Residents of Delhi, which is a collective of around 1,800 resident welfare associations (RWA) in the city, said: “It was evident that the situation in Delhi would not come sufficiently under control till the end of this month. The government could have announced a month-long lockdown at one go in the beginning of May instead of going for several week-long restrictions. Now they should focus on increasing vaccine coverage.”
Chief minister Kejriwal said that the Covid-19 wave was not over but it had significantly come under control and lauded the people for their support. "We overcame a shortage of hospital beds and medical oxygen in this phase with the help of people, the Central government, Supreme Court and the (Delhi) high court. Now, we are concerned about vaccine shortage. But I am sure that too will be resolved soon,” Kejriwal said.
Delhi has a population of 20 million -- of which 15 million are adults, as per electoral rolls. The number translates to a requirement of 30 million vaccine doses. So far, around 26% of the adult population in the Capital has received at least one dose of the vaccine, government records showed.
Kejriwal further said, “Right now, our priority is to vaccinate the entire population of Delhi at the earliest. There is speculation of a third wave. We have to prepare for that aggressively in terms of scaling up hospital beds, ICUs, oxygen, tankers, oxygen storage facilities, etc. But high vaccine coverage can totally reduce the possibility of a third wave. We have had talks with several domestic as well as international manufacturers on how vaccine coverage can be increased in Delhi. We are ready to buy vaccines for our entire population no matter how much it costs.”
In the 2021-22 budget of Delhi, the city government allocated ₹50 crore for vaccination. However, a recent vaccine shortage forced the government to suspend around 250 vaccine centres meant for the 18-44 age group over the last 10 days.