Starting today, night curfew in Delhi from 10 pm to 5 am amid rising Covid cases
The Delhi government on Tuesday clamped a curfew on movement and assembly of people between 10pm and 5am every day until April 30, in an attempt to arrest spiking infections, mirroring similar restrictions in other major cities such as Mumbai reeling under the second wave of Covid-19 cases.
Government officials, essential workers, those travelling to and from airports, railway stations, interstate bus terminals, Covid-19 vaccination centres or hospitals will be exempt from the seven-hour night curfew. All restaurants, markets, wedding halls, pubs and commercial establishments will have to now close by 10pm, but home delivery of food and other items will be allowed, said a senior government official.
The night curfew is the first restriction imposed by the government in the Capital, where the rate of new cases has jumped 130% in just the past week. On Tuesday, the city recorded 5,100 cases and 17 deaths, the highest since November 27. The Capital also conducted more than 100,000 tests for the first time since the pandemic hit the country last March.
Experts are divided, however, over the efficiency of night curfews in curbing infections, especially in the absence of any other curbs.
“The trend needs to be monitored, and we are keeping a close watch on it. Currently, the positivity rate has crossed the 5% mark for the entire country. However, in Delhi, we are completely alert and are being cautious,” said health minister Satyender Jain.
On Tuesday, largely on account of the increasing testing, the positivity rate — a measure of positive cases to total tests conducted — dipped below 5%, the threshold that the World Health Organization recommends must not be breached if testing is adequate. The rate had risen about 5% for the first time in the city in 124 days.
The Delhi government order said the night curfew will come into effect immediately and be in force until April 30 or further orders.
It added that employees of private companies and those involved in essential services will have to get e-passes for travelling within the city during the curfew. The e-passes applications are available on www.delhi.gov.in and passes will be required for those travelling for vaccination, which was expanded to operate 24 hours a day from Monday. Anyone with a medical emergency will also be exempted.
Public transport, including Delhi Metro, shall function during the curfew hours for people exempted from the curbs.
“The situation of Covid-19 in NCT [National Capital Territory] of Delhi has been reviewed and it has been observed that there has been a sudden increase in Covid-19 cases in recent past along with high positivity rate and therefore, it is felt that night curfew needs to be imposed in the territory of NCT of Delhi from 10pm to 5am, except for essential activities/services, as an emergency measure for well being and safety of people,” acting chief secretary Satya Gopal said, on behalf of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).
Night curfews are among the most common non-pharmaceutical interventions used by governments to check the pandemic in Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
In Maharashtra, which is contributing roughly half of all cases in India, authorities have imposed a night and weekend curfew, ordered non-essentials businesses to shut down, and asked most offices to switch to remote working.
Dr GC Khilnani, former head of the department of pulmonology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said the night curfew will have a limited impact. “After 10pm, only restaurants, bars, and maybe some cinemas are open. All workplaces are closed, nobody goes to a mall after 10 o’clock...Simple measures like wearing a mask, staying at home, washing hands frequently, changing clothes soon after entering the home — these cannot be enforced all the time. And, ultimately these are the measures that help in curtailing the spread of the infection,” said Dr Khilnani.
Delhi Police said it will enforce the rules, except for the exempted categories.
“Delhi Police had earlier issued movement passes to facilitate the movement of persons engaged in essential services/commodities. Fresh movement passes will be issued on demand. Those requiring it and qualifying for it can also visit Delhi Police website to apply for it. All field functionaries will be available in their jurisdictions to enforce the DDMA order and to facilitate the exempted categories,” the police said in a statement. Officials said the police will start issuing passes in a few days to ease the application load on the state government’s website.
In case anyone is found violating the instructions, the defaulting person(s) shall be proceeded against as per the provisions of sections 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, Section 188 of IPC and other applicable laws.
The Delhi government order clarified that there was no restriction on interstate and intrastate movement, transportation of essential or non-essential goods. The order added no separate permission or e-passes will be required for such movement. Those arriving in the city at airports, railway stations, and interstate bus terminals will be allowed to travel on the production of valid tickets.
A senior revenue official said the enforcement will be largely based on trust, like it was during the lockdown months last year. “The police and our enforcement officers are also able to judge who is telling the truth or who is faking it. No one will be distressed because of the curfew, but at the same time the rules will be followed in letter and spirit,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
BS Vohra, president of east Delhi RWAs joint front, said the night curfew will create fear among the masses and make they stay indoors. “We support the move as it aims to discipline people and remind them that the virus is still far from gone. However, government should also launch a crackdown in markets and eating joints as Covid-19 appropriate behaviour is brazenly being flouted,” he said.