A view of Jama Masjid, Red Fort and the old quarters of the city on a clear day in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Photo by Sanchit Khanna/ Hindustan Times)
A view of Jama Masjid, Red Fort and the old quarters of the city on a clear day in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Photo by Sanchit Khanna/ Hindustan Times)

Delhi govt to bring in colour-coded graded plan to fight Covid-19

The proposed plan documents seen by HT show that shops in malls will witness a further reduction in timings under the ‘Amber’ alert and will be shut altogether, along with weekly markets, when the alert is raised to ‘Orange’.
By Abhishek Dey, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 08, 2021 04:00 AM IST

A colour-coded graded response action plan, proposed by an expert committee formed by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to guide the government’s Covid-19 preparedness in case of a possible wave of the pandemic in future, will see shopping malls and shops dealing in non-essential goods and services coming under an odd-even system when the alert level is raised to ‘Yellow’ in the Capital.

The proposed plan documents seen by HT show that shops in malls will witness a further reduction in timings under the ‘Amber’ alert and will be shut altogether, along with weekly markets, when the alert is raised to ‘Orange’. Only essential services, stand-alone shops and construction activities, with on-site labourers, will be allowed during the ‘Orange’ alert.

The alerts — Yellow, Amber, Orange and Red — have been arranged in terms of their severity, taking into consideration factors such as positivity rate, cumulative new positive cases, and average weekly occupancy rate of oxygen beds, said the documents.


“While ‘Red’ is the highest level of alert in terms of severity, most economic activities will come to a halt with the announcement of an orange alert itself. Further restrictions will be planned under ‘Red’ alert when the situation arises,” said a senior government official who did not wish to be identified.

The plan, however, is yet to be submitted to Kejriwal or Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, who is the chairperson of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).

A government spokesperson did not offer a comment.

WARNING SYSTEM

According to the expert committee’s plan, the Yellow alert will be issued if the positivity rate remains over 0.5% for two consecutive days, or cumulative new positive cases for seven days touches the 1,500-mark, or the average occupancy of oxygen beds in hospitals remains 500 for a week.

With this alert, shops in markets and malls dealing with non-essential goods and services will be allowed to open between 10 am to 8 pm as per the odd-even formula. While one weekly market will be allowed per municipal zone at half the capacity of vendors, construction activities and industrial establishments and manufacturing units will be allowed to operate, said the government documents.

An Amber alert will be issued if the test positivity rate remains over 1% for two consecutive days, or 3,500 new positive cases surface in a week, or average oxygen bed occupancy remains over the 700-mark for a week. Under this alert, construction activities and manufacturing units will be allowed though shops in markets and shopping malls will have to close by 6 pm, said the documents.

The Orange alert kicks in if the city records a positivity rate of more than 2% for two consecutive days, or 9,000 cumulative new positive cases over a week, or average oxygen bed occupancy remains over the 1,000-mark for a week. This will entail closure of shopping malls and markets, except shops dealing with essential goods. Orange alert will also bring construction activities, which don’t accommodate labourers on-site, to a halt. Shops selling construction materials are not covered under essentials and, hence, they are likely to remain closed. For factories, only those producing essential commodities will be allowed if workers can live on site, the documents said.

A Red alert will be issued if test positivity rate remains over 5% for two consecutive days, or the city touches the 16,000-mark for cumulative new positive cases in seven days, or average oxygen bed occupancy rate remains 3,000 or more for a week. Restrictions on economic activities under the orange alert will remain and more curbs will be introduced depending on the situation, said the senior official quoted above.

Under the current plan, the committee has not yet taken a final call on phase-wise restrictions to be imposed on social activities – such as weddings, and political, religious and cultural gatherings, etc – and public transport. “However, the committee is planning to impose a 50% operational capacity curb on the metro service on an ‘Amber’ alert and on buses on an ‘Orange’ alert. The metro is likely to be closed for the general public during ‘Orange’ alert,” said the senior official.

Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the community medicines department in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, said, “Such a strategy can be very useful in sending the right message to the masses. Currently, the government shares only numbers. Numbers that appear as a threat to me can seem relatively safe to another person. A colour-coded system can help bring in more objectivity and people can better assess what level of precautions to take at what stage. A graded action plan will also ensure better allocation of resources, protect the contact tracing and home isolation models and make triaging easy for the surveillance teams.”

The colour-coded alerts in the graded response action plan for Covid-19 are similar to the system imposed by the state to tackle air pollution in the city in the winter. Under the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) for pollution in the Capital, air quality scale is divided into four levels — moderate, poor, very poor, severe and severe plus or emergency -- with the government and enforcement agencies implementing a list of do’s and don’ts as and when the pollution level breaches a particular level.

The graded response strategy for Covid-19 was drafted by an eight-member expert committee set up by Kejriwal on May 27. On the same day, Kejriwal formed another 13-member expert committee to guide the government on technical and healthcare-related measures in case Delhi sees another wave of the pandemic.

At its peak, the Capital witnessed more than 28,300 new cases in a day on April 20, and a positivity rate of more than 36% on April 22.

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