Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday (May 15) suggested the Centre to allow shopping malls and metro services to function outside containment zones in Delhi, provided stringent social distancing norms are followed.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kejriwal said, “We want there should not be any relaxation in containment zones. Outside containment zones, several economic activities should be started, but social distancing and masks should be mandatory.”
“We think after relaxing the lockdown, there would be an increase in coronavirus cases. But we have arranged hospitals, oxygen, ventilators, ambulances, ICUs etc to tackle the situation,” he added.
The Delhi government has suggested opening of metro services from next week, but only for government employees and people engaged in essential services, even as it recommended that religious places, gyms and cinema halls remain closed during the fourth phase of the lockdown.
Kejriwal also said though the number of COVID-19 cases will increase due to relaxations in the lockdown post May 17, the Delhi government has made sufficient arrangements of hospitals, intensive care units, ambulances and ventilators.
The Kejriwal government has launched an exercise to draft standard operating procedures for the novel coronavirus-induced lockdowns upcoming phase, officials said.
The number of coronavirus cases in the national capital mounted to 8,895 on Friday and the death toll climbed to 123, a health bulletin said.
It said cumulative death figures refer to fatalities where primary cause of death was found to be COVID-19, as per the reports of the Death Audit Committee on the basis of case sheets received from various hospitals.
Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot held a high-level meeting with officers to formulate a strategy for the fourth phase of the lockdown, while Health Minister Satyendar Jain told reporters that in the times to come, one will have to learn to live with the coronavirus.
The nationwide lockdown was imposed from March 25 to April 14, then extended to May 3 and again to May 17 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“There was a time when we all thought that this pandemic will be over by May 1 due to summer. But now we have seen that in the Latin American countries also the pandemic is increasing. The temperature of these countries is very high. This shows that we have to learn to live with COVID-19,” Jain said.
On the Delhi government’s stand on resumption of economic activities, he said it feels that there should be a balance between the fight against COVID-19 and economic activities.
“We are fighting against COVID-19 with full effort but now we have to start economic activities. Therefore, the measures should be followed. When the lockdown was imposed, at that time we were not prepared to fight this pandemic but now we have prepared ourselves to fight this pandemic,” Jain stressed.
The Delhi government on Thursday submitted suggestions to the Centre advocating significant opening of economic activities.
This included starting metro services. However, only central and Delhi government employees and people engaged in essential services will be permitted to use the metro service, Kejriwal said in his suggestions to the Centre.
It has also recommended opening of all shops in markets, but on an odd-even basis.
The Delhi government has suggested that all cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, theatres and bars will remain closed. Even barber shops, spas and salons will be prohibited from operating.
Movement of individuals engaged in all non-essential activities will be prohibited between 9 pm to 5 am, the recommendations said.
On starting metro services, a standard operating procedure (SOP) for safe operation of metro trains and buses was discussed in a meeting attended by Gahlot and top officers of the transport department and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
Gahlot said the decision to resume Delhi Metro services will be taken by the central government.
Sources said whenever the metro services are ordered to be resumed, there will be thermal scanners to test the temperature of commuters, sanitisers and stickers on social distancing norms pasted on seats and platform floors.
On regular days, the average daily ridership of the DMRC is over 26 lakh.
“Discussed SOPs for safe opening of Delhi metro & buses with officials of @TransportDelhi, @OfficialDMRC, @dtchq_delhi, @DimtsLtd @DDC_Delhi & experts from @WRIIndia. If central govt. allows, Delhi is confident of running public TPT under the leadership of @ArvindKejriwal,” Gahlot said in a tweet.
The minister said that public cooperation will be key to the successful resumption of transport services.
“Social distancing, contactless ticketing and disinfection will be the three pillars of our strategy to run public transport safely. And all of this will be possible only if people of Delhi cooperate. Delhi will be back on its feet only if people and the govt work together,” he said in another tweet.
Social distancing, contactless ticketing and disinfection will be the three pillars of our strategy to run public transport safely. And all of this will be possible only if people of Delhi cooperate. Delhi will be back on its feet only if people and the govt work together 2/2 https://t.co/fEB9sMTA1H
— Kailash Gahlot (@kgahlot) May 15, 2020
Gahlot said weekly passes and use of electronic ticketing machines to minimise contact, alternate seating arrangements to maintain social distancing and thermal screening devices will be ensured in DTC and cluster buses.
He said the number of passengers on a bus will be kept to around 20 to ensure proper social distancing.
Also, civil defence volunteers, marshals and enforcement personnel will be deployed at bus queue shelters to implement social distancing, the minister added.
Since the city government reopened a handful of outlets on May 4 amid the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, Delhiites have consumed liquor worth around ₹170 crore in 10 days.
An official said that the Delhi government has earned an additional ₹70 crore from the sale on account of “Special Corona Fee.”
(With inputs from agencies)