A passenger, upon arriving at the New Delhi railway station, sprays disinfectant over the luggage of his family members.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
A passenger, upon arriving at the New Delhi railway station, sprays disinfectant over the luggage of his family members.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Delhi to put out own lockdown 4.0 guidelines today: CM Kejriwal

City-specific guidelines will be out today. Experts say stringent lockdown has led to an economic crisis.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Sweta Goswami
UPDATED ON MAY 18, 2020 08:31 AM IST

The Delhi government will announce on Monday what citizens can and cannot do in the national capital, officials said on Sunday after the Union government significantly eased some of the curbs in force since March 25, when the country was put under a lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

The rules for the next phase of the lockdown announced by the centre are the minimum restrictions states and union territories must follow, although they are allowed to roll out stricter measures if they need to. The relaxation was precipitated by a sharp drop in earnings of businesses as well as individuals.

“The Centre’s guidelines are largely in line with the proposal sent by the Delhi government, based on the suggestions of lakhs of Delhiites. We have used the lockdown period to prepare our healthcare system if corona cases increase, but it is now time to relax the restrictions to some extent,” chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet, minutes after the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) issued the guidelines on Sunday.

According to officials who asked not to be named, except for the 73 containment zones in the capital, there will be a significant increase in permitted activities in line with Centre’s guidelines. Some of these could include the return of buses, cabs, auto-rickshaws and lead to the reopening of markets, sports complexes, industries and offices.

These were part of relaxations that Delhi suggested to the Union government in a letter written by the CM to the Prime Minister on Thursday. Some of the other recommendations by the Delhi government, such as resuming Delhi Metro services, reducing the night curfew to 9pm-5am and reopening some shops in shopping malls, were not part of the Union government guidelines – which means they cannot be implemented.

Some of the other rules issued on Sunday, however, suggested more relaxations could be given in some other areas – such as allowing spas, salon or barber shops to reopen.

“Details, such as how many passengers should be allowed in a bus, taxi, a private car or two-wheeler, how markets should operate and the number of people allowed to return to private offices, are being finalised. Since there are a lot of relaxations, the order by the Delhi government will have a lot of finer details to avoid any confusion,” said a senior government official, on the condition of anonymity.

Delhi recommended that only 50% of staff be allowed to return to offices, while the guidelines issued by the Union home ministry made no mention of such a restriction.

In the case of public transport, the Delhi government suggested single-passenger restriction for auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws, and a limit of 20 passengers in buses. The official quoted above said this is likely to be included in Delhi’s rules.

The capital’s administration will also take a call on whether e-commerce companies should be allowed to deliver non-essential items in areas outside of containment zones, a decision the Centre has left to states. So far, only essential items are allowed to be delivered by e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Flipkart.

A second senior government official, who asked not to be named, said allowing markets to operate and relaxing the restrictions for industries and construction activities is going to help the state exchequer in increasing revenue generation.

Due to the lockdown, Delhi government’s revenue collection for the month of April dropped by 90%. Against a projected generation of Rs 4,000 crore, Delhi earned only around Rs 400 crore. An official in the finance department said in the current scenario, the Delhi government will have no money to disburse salaries to its employees after July.

“Not wearing a mask is likely to attract a strict fine. Besides, all employees also must wear masks, and downloading the Aarogya Setu mobile application will be emphasised upon,” the second government official added, detailing more rules that may be different from the Union government’s.

The Delhi Development Authority, which runs a number of sports complexes (Siri Fort, Chilla Sports Complex, Yamuna Sports Complex, etc) in the city, said that a decision regarding opening sports complexes – which has been allowed by Centre -- will be taken based on activities allowed by the Delhi government.

Experts said the relaxations will help people cope with the “vast sufferings” they have undergone.

“There is definitely going to be a spike with the relaxations, but it will also ease a bit of the vast sufferings of the people, especially when there is no clear or major direct relief given by the Centre to the states and more so to a Union Territory like Delhi. We imposed the most stringent lockdown at a time when almost every other country went through a gradual lockdown. As a result, the economic crisis in India has reached a point where we are having to relax the lockdown when the number of infections is peaking,” said Jayati Ghosh, a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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