Covid-19: Delhi is being irresponsible | HT Editorial
Covid-19 cases in Delhi are rising, along with a spike in positivity rate, a clear indication of an even further increase in cases in the offing. The Delhi government said, in a document presented at the meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on Saturday, that it expects 12,000 cases a day by end-November. Air pollution has become worse in Delhi, partly because of stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, and partly because of higher traffic in Delhi (HT reported on Sunday that this is now 10% higher than pre-pandemic levels). There’s enough scientific evidence on how bad air exacerbates the pandemic. Finally, this is the festive and marriage season in Delhi and across India — a time marked by social gatherings.
Together, these constitute a severe challenge for administrators and health authorities — and point to imminent pressure on the Capital’s health care system. Understandably, everyone is worried. DDMA met on Saturday. And the home secretary has called for a meeting on Monday. Yet, DDMA — both the Centre and the Delhi government are part of it, so the credit or blame has to be shared — has a strange way of showing its concern. It has increased the number of people who can attend weddings and other ceremonies in closed spaces from 50 to 200. And the state’s health minister has ruled out another lockdown or harsher restrictions. This is downright irresponsible. Sure, the Union Territory is doing the right thing by continuing to test aggressively, and preparing its hospital infrastructure for the coming onslaught (the document presented at the DDMA meeting mentions this), but its reluctance to enforce restrictions on movement and activities — a column in this newspaper suggested a curfew, restricted timings for restaurants, and the enforcement of social distancing norms in markets — or ban social, religious or cultural gatherings altogether (another suggestion in that column) is baffling.
The easing of restrictions on weddings is believed to be aimed at providing relief to the owners of banquets halls. And it is clear that the unwillingness to restrict or ban other festivities comes from the fear of angering the population. This is the situation much of Europe found itself through the continent’s long summer. Most European countries failed to do the right thing then — and are paying the price now, and scrambling to enforce lockdowns. Delhi is making the same mistake. It’s better to have a population angry at the State than one ravaged by a stronger wave of the pandemic.