Rapped by the Delhi High Court for not acting fast enough to check the third wave of coronavirus disease in the capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a ₹2,000 fine, up from the current ₹500, for those caught without masks.
COVID cases have been surging in Delhi for the third week in a row. The national capital had registered 7,486 new cases on Tuesday, taking the infection tally in the city to over 5 lakh. A total of 131 people died — the highest single-day count in Delhi till date. The death tally, so far, stands at 7,943.
The High Court on Thursday asked the Kejriwal government whyit waited so long to take precautions, like reducing the number of attendees at weddings, when the cases were on the rise since November 1.
“Why did you wait for 18 days to restrict the number of attendees at weddings? How many died of COVID-19 during this period?” the high court asked. “You were shaken out of slumber, you turned turtle after we asked questions,” the high court said.
The festive season has consistently pushed the daily tally of fresh cases and fatalities up since the beginning of November. Looking at the alarming situation, the Centre has flown in para-medical personnel and increased the number of beds in hospitals in Delhi.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Kejriwal said, “Arrangements are being made for over 1,400 ICU beds, including 663 in Delhi government hospitals and 750 at Centre-run facilities.”
The decision to reserve 80 per cent ICU beds in private hospitals for COVID-19 patients comes into effect from Thursday. The number of non-ICU beds for COVID patients in private hospitals will be raised from 50 per cent to 60 per cent, Kejriwal said.
He has already decided to shut markets that prove coronavirus hotspots. The customary dip in Delhi’s water bodies will not be allowed during Chhath puja.
Kejriwal has appealed to political parties and social organisations to distribute masks at public places throughout Delhi. He chaired an all-party meeting where he appealed for a united effort to fight the pandemic.