The formal announcement on how Delhi will start a process of gradual reopening came at 5.30 pm, but many store owners in Khan Market had began dusting and sanitising their premises in the morning. By noon, some shutters were up with masked staffers ready to welcome customers. Scenes were not much different elsewhere in the city.
Life in the National Capital is expected to limp back to normal in some measure because many restrictions, imposed two months ago to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, were relaxed as part of the two-week lockdown 4.0 that came into force on Monday.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal laid down ground rules to restart economic activities, while asserting that his government was prepared to deal with coronavirus and also saying people will have to learn to live with it till a vaccine is found. The CM, however, clarified that there will be no activities, barring essential services, in all 73 containment zones. Wearing masks while going out of homes will remain mandatory, he said.
“Now, coronavirus isn’t going to go away in the next one or two months, not until there’s a vaccine. Like I have been saying, we need to habituate ourselves to live with it. Coronavirus will stay but our lives will go on,” Kejriwal said addressing a press conference.
Stores at New Delhi’s Khan Market get ready to begin sales after relaxation were announced by the Delhi government on Monday. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia/India Today)
Public transportation has been allowed but with conditions. As announced by the CM, DTC buses are now allowed to run, but with only 20 passengers in a vehicle. Passengers will be screened before boarding. The transport department will ensure that social distancing norms are followed at all bus stops and inside vehicles, the CM announced.
Auto-rickshaws, e-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws will be allowed, with one passenger in a vehicle. Taxis and cabs are also allowed, with two passengers in a vehicle.
Kejriwal’s announcements are in line with the Central government’s order issued on Sunday for the extension of the lockdown until May 31. As in the previous phases, nobody is allowed to move outside from 7 pm to 7 am, except for essential services.
Markets will operate on oddeven basis – half the shops on one day and the rest next day. Essential shops are open all days. Restaurants will open, but only for home delivery services. Traders welcomed Kejriwal’s announcements but urged him to reconsider the odd-even formula for shops as it is not workable, according to them.
Defence Colony also saw some shops opening after the announcement of new guidelines. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia/India Today)
“This was much awaited and will certainly bring the economy of Delhi back on the wheels and traders will be able to resume business operations. The trading community stands in solidarity with the Delhi government,” said Praveen Khandelwal, General Secretary, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
Earlier in the day, traffic jams were reported at several border crossings between Delhi and Gurugram, and Delhi and Noida. The vehicular queue went up to over a kilometre as local cops checked passes and identity cards of people travelling on DND Flyway.
Government and private offices will open, although private offices have been asked to encourage work from home. This came on a day when the Centre asked 50% of its junior staff to attend office.
Marriage gatherings with up to 50 guests and funerals with not more than 20 people have also been allowed. Industries will open with staggered timing to reduce crowding. Construction activities will be allowed as well but trans-border workers won’t be allowed. Sports complexes and stadiums can open but without spectators.
THE RISING CURVE
As on Monday, Delhi had 10,054 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 160 deaths. At least, 4,500 patients have recovered so far
“The number of cases is high. But the average number of deaths is less in comparison to other states and countries,” Kejriwal said.
Flights, Metro, schools, colleges, hotels, cinemas, malls, gyms, bars, saloons and large gatherings stay shut in the Capital till May 31.
Some shops opened on Monday in Connaught Place with all the necessary precautions. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia/India Today)
“Senior citizens above the age of 65, young children below the age of 10, pregnant women, and people with co-morbidities such as heart diseases and diabetes shall remain under strict lockdown because they are at a high risk of contracting coronavirus,” Kejriwal added.
The Delhi government has also directed Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) not to prevent any person from performing services and duties which have been permitted under these guidelines.
As per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs for phase four of the lockdown, states were empowered to categorise red, orange and green zones.
Inside these zones, containment and buffer zones will be identified by the district administration. Earlier in the day, the states and Union Territories were advised against diluting restrictions under the guidelines for the lockdown.
WAR OF WORDS
BJP leader Gautam Gambhir urged Kejriwal to rethink relaxations. “The decision to open up almost everything in one go can act as a death warrant for Delhiites! I urge Delhi Govt to think again & again! One wrong move & everything will be over!” Gambhir tweeted.
Defending the decision, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said. “We have to live with coronavirus so Delhi decides to open but slowly & cautiously. Public buses, taxis, autos allowed to operate. Markets, shops, offices, restaurants-home delivery allowed. Metro, malls, salons, schools closed. Take care and stay safe.”