Unlock Delhi, we’re ready: Arvind Kejriwal
Outlining the relaxations in the city from Monday, as per central guidelines, the Delhi CM said the state government told the Centre that barring the 97 containment zones in the city, which should remain sealed, the rest of the city should be declared a “green zone”.Updated: May 04, 2020 15:00 IST
Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal asked the Centre on Sunday to lift the lockdown in the Capital, underlining that both the government and citizens will have to learn to live with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), and that the lockdown – while necessarily – was now causing a grave economic crisis. Kejriwal acknowledged that this may lead to an increase in cases, but said that Delhi’s infrastructure was prepared to deal with it.
Outlining the relaxations in the city from Monday, as per central guidelines, the Delhi CM said the state government told the Centre that barring the 97 containment zones in the city, which should remain sealed, the rest of the city should be declared a “green zone”. This was necessary to ease the suffering of the people, as well as ensure the economy got back on its feet, which was necessary for the government itself to function, Kejriwal said.
All of Delhi is currently a “red zone” – where restrictions on activities are the most severe. The decision to relax the classification of an administrative jurisdiction rests with the Centre.
“Imposing the lockdown was very important. If the Centre had not done so on March 24, there would have been a frightening situation in the country because at that point, we were not ready to deal with the coronavirus disease. We did not have personal protective equipment kits, we did not have testing kits, hospitals were not ready, people were not aware of the idea of social distancing,” Kejriwal said. He emphasised that Delhi had followed all the central guidelines – “which were good, very good” – but it was now time to lift the lockdown.
The CM said that the lockdown had created two major difficulties. The first was that people were facing enormous hardship. “People are losing livelihoods. Traders can’t open their shops. There is no industrial activity. More jobs are being lost. Many people will leave Delhi soon.”
This has shaken the entire economic architecture, which, in turn, caused the second crisis. “Since the economy is closed, the government is not getting any revenues. In April, every year, the government used to receive ~3,500 crore in revenues. Last month, we got ~300 crore. How will we pay salaries? How will we run the government?”
Kejriwal said it was important to understand that Covid-19 is now here to stay. “We will not see a situation now where there are no cases. This is now impossible.” The idea of the lockdown was to prepare, and Delhi, he said, had done so optimally. “We have made adequate arrangements. We have enough testing kits. We have hospitals.”
Delhi currently has close to 3,000 beds reserved for Covid-19 patients in several state and central government hospitals, and an additional 420 paid beds in private hospitals, according to thehealth department.Kejriwal said last month that the government has a plan to gradually scale the requirement of beds -- in hospitals, hotels and guest houses -- to 30,000 depending on the rise in cases.There are 306 ventilators in public hospitals in the city and about 800 more in private, Delhi government officials said.The Capital also has adequate stock of personal protective equipment (PPEs), with around 300,000 lakh PPE kits being delivered piecemeal and at least 15,000 kits received from the Centre, government officials said.
In this backdrop – where Covid-19 could not be eradicated and the city infrastructure was adequate – Delhi, the CM said, had asked the Centre to lift the lockdown. “We have advised the Centre that while 97 containment zones in the city should be entirely sealed, the rest of the city should be declared a green zone. All markets should be open. One way is to make it odd-even, with alternate shops opening every day. But it is time to open Delhi.”
While a senior government functionary said the Union home ministry will continue to work together with states, another official said the guidelines are for all states/UTs to follow. The developments come days after the Centre said in its order, released on Friday, that states can enforce stricter rules but not dilute them.
Delhi reported 427 new cases on Sunday, taking its total tally to 4,549 including 64 deaths.
Lifting the lockdown, Kejriwal acknowledged, will lead to a possible increase in cases. “We are hopeful that Delhi’s economy will open soon. When this happens, there will be an increase in cases. But we are prepared to deal with it.”
“If you talk about the number of hospitals and beds for Covid-19 patients, yes, there are more now than there were before. But the ground reality is that there are gaps – non-Covid patients are not getting admissions, many doctors getting infected. The quality of care provided at government hospitals also has to improve. The government needs to address these issues before opening up lockdown,” said Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital.
Kejriwal also outlined the government’s broad public health strategy at the moment. “Our first priority is to minimise deaths due to the disease; we have been successful in this. The second is to minimise the spread of the disease. That is why we are testing in large numbers now, to be able to the track the infected and treat them.”