As new cases rise, police step up watch on Covid violators
New Delhi:As Covid-19 cases are steadily increasing across the city, prompting the state government to impose night curfew starting Tuesday, prosecution data related to violation of Covid-19 guidelines shows police have caught at least 1,800-2,000 persons every day over the past few days.
Until last month, police were issuing fines to only around 130-160 persons every day for violating Covid measures, such as the use of mask and social distancing, which have been set in place to reduce the spread of the infection. With night curfew already in place to tackle the fourth wave, Delhi police officers said that they have increased enforcement across the city.
Data on police prosecution, seen by HT, shows that in February, when the positivity rate had reached a low of 0.17% (February 16) and cases had declined, only 40 persons were fined on an average each day for not wearing masks. The Covid-19 cases started increasing since mid-February and in March, at least 501 persons were fined every day. The average figure has now increased to at least 1,718 every day ( between April 1 and 6).
To be clear, the daily prosecution number is close to what it was during the third wave of the infection in October-November. Delhi was recording a daily average of 3,451 new cases in October and 6,122 in November.
Police data shows that in the past five days, cases have been registered against a wide spectrum of people, ranging from the owner of a small eatery in Gole Market to the management of a posh resto bar in Connaught Place. Apart from this, at least three persons were fined inside a city five-star hotel for not wearing masks and a night club owner in west Delhi was also fined for not adhering to the guidelines.
While the first offence only attracts a fine, police said they would register an FIR if the person continues to violate the guidelines.
“For those not following Covid-appropriate behaviour, we are registering cases under the Indian Penal Code and the Epidemic Disease Act. This includes owners of shops, restaurants and the places where they were not adhering to social distancing norms. Separately, we are issuing fines of ₹2,000 to those who are not wearing masks,” said deputy commissioner of police and Delhi police spokesperson Chinmoy Biswal.
The DCP said that separate teams have been formed in every police station to ensure that residents are following social distancing norms, especially in the evening when restaurants and markets see a high footfall. “The number of teams to check on Covid enforcement at each police station has also increased. Our aim is not to fine citizens but to ensure that they follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, so that the infection is under control,” he said.
During the weekend, police had registered at least 17 FIRs during a special drive on checking for violations. In west Delhi alone, especially in restaurants at Rajouri Garden, Raja Garden and Tilak Nagar, police conducted inspections and fined owners/management of 14 establishments for violating the guidelines. The enforcement, police said, would be inside the establishments as well as on the road.
With people arguing and refusing to pay ₹2,000 fines, police have also started taking videos of violators. “We are recording the videos as evidence in cases, where people contest and refuse to accept that they were not wearing masks or violating social distancing. We are inspecting banquet halls, restaurant, and night clubs where the footfall is very high in the evening hours,” a police officer, who did not wish to be named said.
During the first three waves of the infection, the fine was only ₹500. The fine was increased to ₹2,000 on November 19, last year, when government and police agencies realised that citizens were not willing to follow the mask rule during the third wave.
The Delhi government had on Friday said that the city was witnessing the fourth wave of the infection. For the last 10 days, the city has recorded 2,923 cases on an average each day. Police said the enforcement on roads will increase until the fourth wave of the infection recedes.