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Home / Delhi News / Taking a breath to keep coronavirus out

Taking a breath to keep coronavirus out

The voluntary shutdown came on a day the Delhi and central governments announced sweeping lockdowns to prevent the spread of the disease in the country. India has so far report 360 cases of Covid-10, 27 of which have been confirmed in Delhi.

delhi Updated: Mar 23, 2020 11:54 IST
Abhishek Dey, Vatsala Shrangi and Ashish Mishra
Abhishek Dey, Vatsala Shrangi and Ashish Mishra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi’s Janpath market during Janta Curfew on Sunday, March 22, 2020 (Photo by Biplov Bhuyan / Hindustan Times)
Delhi’s Janpath market during Janta Curfew on Sunday, March 22, 2020 (Photo by Biplov Bhuyan / Hindustan Times)(Biplov Bhuyan / HT Photo )

Streets and public places in Delhi wore a deserted look on Sunday as millions heeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a voluntary shutdown to break the chain of coronavirus infections and stayed home for the “janta curfew” imposed from 7am to 9pm.

For the Capital, inhabited by nearly 20 million people, Sunday began with unusual sights – there were barely any sanitation workers to sweep the streets, no street vendors setting up their makeshift shops and no din of vehicle engines and honking. The little activity that was reported during the day could be seen at major hospitals, bus terminals, railway stations, the international airport and shelter homes.

The silence, however, was broken for a few minutes in the evening as residents across neighbourhoods clapped, rang utensils, blew conches and hooted from their balconies between 5pm and 5.30pm to follow PM Modi’s call to express gratitude to essential works and health care professionals. Earlier this month, residents of Spain and Italy, two nations ravaged by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) had engaged in a similar activity.

The voluntary shutdown came on a day the Delhi and central governments announced sweeping lockdowns to prevent the spread of the disease in the country. India has so far report 360 cases of Covid-10, 27 of which have been confirmed in Delhi.

On Sunday, the Delhi Police also participated in the “janta curfew” by distributing flowers to residents who were seen on the roads and asking them to stay indoors. They also set up barricades to block lanes and alleys in some areas.

For the first time in 18 years, the Delhi Metro’s services were suspended for the entire day and the public buses services – with a current fleet strength of around 5,600 – were halved in operational capacity. Even in the few buses spotted on the deserted roads, low occupancy was seen. All interstate buses, too, stood cancelled. All markets remained closed, except pharmacies, ration shops and milk booths.

Praveen Khandelwal, president of the Confederation of All India Traders, said: “Nearly 1.5 million traders and their three million employees observed a lockdown on Sunday in the city. As many as 3,000 commercial markets remained shut hence business worth Rs 500 crore was not done in Delhi. Nationally, business worth Rs 14,000 crore was not done as 60,000 commercial markets remained closed across the nation. The market lockdown in the national capital will continue on Monday as well.”

Though the Delhi Traffic Police were yet to assess the reduction in the number of vehicles plying across major arterial roads, senior officials said that there was barely any movement on the streets. The stretches and intersections that usually witness the heaviest traffic were almost empty.

“There are only a few vehicles, including public buses, plying today. If someone is seen outside, we are urging them to stay indoors,” said joint commissioner of police (traffic), Narendra Singh Bundela.

Most neighbourhoods, otherwise buzzing with activity, appeared deserted. In South Delhi’s Vasant Vihar and Lajpat Nagar, among others, the local resident welfare associations (RWA) issued circulars asking locals to participate in the “janta curfew” and not to step out of their houses.

BS Vohra, president, East Delhi Federation of RWAs, said that people were happy to comply with the shutdown. “A day’s curfew alone won’t be able to contain the transmission as much as a sustained shutdown,” said Vohra. The government later announced a complete lockdown will March 31.

In several residential areas that included Defence Colony, parts of Green Park and Greater Kailash, RWAs also closed colony gates and used police barricades to block some areas for thoroughfare.