A weekend curfew will be imposed in the Indian Capital while work from home for at least 50% of the staff of all private offices has been mandated amid a spike in Covid-19 cases, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said on Tuesday. The announcement came following a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).
The DDMA has decided against sounding a red alert under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) even as Delhi breached the 5% positivity rate mark on Monday.
It has allowed state-run buses and the Delhi Metro to operate with 100% seating capacity to avoid crowding at transport hubs such as bus stops and Metro stations. Standing passengers are unlikely to be allowed, transport officials said even as a detailed order was awaited.
The DDMA has lieutenant governor Anil Baijal as its chairperson and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier on Tuesday, as the vice-chairperson. It also includes All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS, New Delhi) director Randeep Guleria and Indian Council of Medical Research chief Balram Bhargava as experts.
Sisodia cited rapidly increasing Covid-19 cases in the Capital, but said the good thing with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is that the severity of infection is fairly low compared to previous variants.
"Delhi has nearly 11,000 active cases and only about 350 Covid-19 patients are in hospitals, of which 124 are on oxygen support and seven are on ventilators," Sisodia said. "But since cases are increasing swiftly, the DDMA has decided to take certain preventive measures to contain the spread of infections in the city."
He added that only essential activities such as taking a patient to the hospital will be allowed over the weekends. "The night curfew on weekdays shall continue. In addition, all government employees have been asked to work from home or online. Private offices will have to ask at least 50% of their staff to work from home," Sisodia said.
Government departments catering to essential services such as Covid-19 management will work, as usual, a DDMA member said.
Sisodia said overcrowding at bus stops and Metro stations was discussed at length at the DDMA meeting.
"Since the highly mutated Omicron variant spreads much faster than the older variants, we cannot allow transport hubs to turn into super spreaders. The recent decision of the DDMA to restrict passengers in buses and the Metro to 50% of the seating capacity is leading to excessive crowding and, therefore, it is being revoked. Buses and the Delhi Metro will now be allowed to operate with full capacity."
On Monday, Delhi reported 4,099 Covid-19 cases, up from 3,194 a day earlier, a rise of 28% in 24 hours. The case positivity rate surged to 6.46% from Sunday's 4.59%. With this, the cumulative case count of Delhi shot up to 14,58,220.
On December 28, the DDMA sounded a yellow alert under GRAP leading to restrictions including night curfew between 10 pm and 5 am and shutting of educational institutions, gyms, and cinemas. Markets and malls were allowed to operate on an odd-even basis. Delhi then had a positivity rate of 0.89%.
A day later, on December 29, at the last DDMA meeting, an "amber alert" was issued for testing, tracking, and treating for checking the transmission of the virus including its Omicron variant.
GRAP spells out four levels of restrictions based on the positivity rate. The first level, classified as a yellow alert, is activated after the positivity rate remains above 0.5% for two consecutive days. The highest level is a red alert, which comes into play when the positivity rate breaches 5% and stays there for two consecutive days.