Delhi takes cautious steps to ease virus curfew as Covid cases dip

Food distribution in New Delhi on May 20, 2021.
Food distribution in New Delhi on May 20, 2021. Prakash SINGH AFP

India's capital has begun easing a weeks-long lockdown as coronavirus infections declined over the past few days. But hospitals are still brimming with patients as a devastating surge in the virus continues, with little respite from daily fatalities.


The capital city reported 78 Covid deaths in 24 hours to Monday and 648 fresh infections – the lowest since March 19.

“The situation is under control,” said Delhi chief minister Arvind Kerjiwal at a weekend news conference but added the coronavirus lockdown will remain in place until June 7.

Virus vs Hunger

Delhi was shut down on April 19 and in these six weeks it posted almost 550,000 infections, 11,000 Covid deaths amid chaotic scenes of hospitals running out of beds, medicines and oxygen and crematoriums working non-stop.

The lockdown hit Delhi’s working poor hard and many migrant workers fled to their native villages as they could neither pay their rent nor feed their families in the city.

“Many poor families have lost their livelihood due to the lockdown and therefore it has been decided construction work and factories in Delhi will start functioning from Monday,” chief minister Kejriwal said.

“We shouldn't have a situation where people escape the virus only to die from hunger," he said as his administration pulled down the shutters of shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants, pools, pubs, gymnasiums, and clubs.

More than 9,000 factories spread across Delhi’s 29 industrial estates have around 450,000 workers on their payroll while the services sector employs a sizeable chunk of Delhi’s 20 million residents.

Kejriwal’s city government face allegations of mismanagement and the turmoil the city witnessed at the height of the medical crisis.

“It is great factories are reopening. But what about us?” asked Leila, who works with her younger sister in a city spa which too have been shut.

Cops on the prowl

The city police warned residents to behave and restricted guests at weddings to only 20.

More than 105,000 Delhi residents were fined for breaching health protocols between April 19 and May 29.

“Although the crisis seems to be easing, we cannot let our guards down again,” a senior police officer said.

City Police Commissioner S.N. Srivastava ordered his men and women officers to keep tabs on convicts released on Covid parole from Asia’s most notorious prison in Delhi.

Cases dip, death toll holds steady

India on Monday reported 3,128 deaths but the number of daily new cases dipped to 152,000 – the lowest since April 15.

Almost half of India’s 329,000 Covid deaths occurred during the explosive second surge, which started mid-February.

The surge rapidly took India’s total infections to 28 million, according to latest data published on Monday.

India now accounts for 16 percent of confirmed cases worldwide and nine percent of global Covid deaths.

But Yogi Adityanath, a fiery Hindu monk who rules Uttar Pradesh, country’s most populous state adjoining Delhi asserted India was winning the battle against the pandemic.

“India’s fight against Covid is showing results,” he told reporters on Monday.

Uttar Pradesh has so far posted nearly 1.7 million cases and 20,300 deaths.

Some experts dispute India’s virus data as an undercount.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning