Delhi imposes 10pm curfew as India Covid cases continue to rise

India’s national capital Delhi imposed an immediate night curfew for its 29 million people on Tuesday as the country’s biggest cities braced for stricter lockdowns amid a rising wave of coronavirus infections.

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) announced orders to impose night curfews for the entire capital region beginning from Tuesday until 30 April due to a “sudden rise in Covid cases and increased positivity rate”.

India witnessed its biggest ever one-day jump of 103,558 new Covid cases on Monday, the first six-digit spike in daily infections since the beginning of a pandemic that has seen the country record 12.6 million cases in total.

Delhi alone has reported more than 3,500 new cases daily for four consecutive days, breaking a lull in cases that had previously seen in log no more than a few hundred a day for months.

The movement of people and all commercial activity will now be stopped between 10pm and 5am, with exceptions for essential activities, including people going out for vaccination with an e-pass which has to be obtained from the Delhi government website.

It is the first curfew in Delhi since one was applied on 1 January to quash New Year’s Eve celebrations.

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The surge in Delhi is still less alarming than in states such as Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh, between them contributing more than 60 per cent of cases to the national daily tally.

The proposal to impose a night curfew was sent by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office to the lieutenant governor for approval, after discussions with the central government.

The order also came on the heels of a crackdown by Delhi police on large gatherings for weddings and parties in banquet halls, restaurants and night clubs.

Delhi police have been seen in large numbers on the roads, as well as actively conducting raids in commercial workplaces, banquets and other public places, imposing on-the-spot fines if people are seen violating mask mandates and social distancing norms.

Delhi’s “Test Positivity Rate” – the percentage of people getting tested each day who return a positive result for Covid – is a particular concern, hitting five per cent on Monday. It was down at around one per cent as recently as 20 March.

The surge in cases prompted Mr Kejriwal to hold a press conference on Friday when he said Delhi is under what he called a fourth wave of Covid, but still insisted a state-wide lockdown is not on the cards.

“As per the current situation, we are not considering imposing a lockdown. We are closely monitoring the situation and such a decision will only be taken after due public consultation,” Mr Kejriwal said.

According to the order, doctors, nurses and medical staff would be exempted during curfew hours and people involved in essential services and retailers would be allowed for ration, grocery stocks, vegetables, milk and medicines with e-pass. Accredited journalists will also be allowed to move outside of curfew hours.

Meanwhile, Delhi became the first state in India to launch a 24-hour-a-day coronavirus vaccination drive, starting from Tuesday, to speed inoculations.

The state health ministry said one third of Delhi government’s vaccination centres will remain open from 9pm to 9am, when others are closed.

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