The Delhi government on Sunday assuaged fears of migrant workers and businessmen, saying to protect livelihoods, its attempt is to impose minimum Covid restrictions and not a lockdown. The national capital in the past few days has seen a massive spike in daily cases, with migrants workers fearing a lockdown, like those imposed during the 2020 and last year Covid waves, could further dent their earnings, landing them into a severe financial crisis.
Addressing a virtual press conference, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stressed that the hospitalisation rate is low and that there will be no need of a lockdown if everyone wears a mask.
“Rising Covid cases are a matter of concern but there is no need to panic. Very few people are getting hospitalised. Wearing mask is very important. There will be no lockdown if you continue to wear mask. There is no plan to impose a lockdown as of now,” he said.
The Delhi government has already announced night and weekend curfews, among other restrictions, to check the spread of the coronavirus. Kejriwal said that he along with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and the Centre is keeping a close eye on the Covid situation. “Our attempt is to impose minimum restrictions so livelihoods are not affected,” he said.
Delhi on Saturday, recorded seven fatalities due to Covid and 20,181 cases as the positivity rate rose to 19.60 per cent, while on Friday, the city recorded 17,335 cases, the highest single-day rise since May 8, and nine deaths, with a positivity rate of 17.73 per cent. The figures on Thursday, stood at 15,097 fresh cases, six deaths and a positivity rate of 15.34 per cent.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain has repeatedly stressed that most Covid cases, this time, are mild or asymptomatic, not requiring hospitalisation. Delhi has reported six times lower hospital admissions due to the coronavirus this time as compared to the first wave of infections, he had said on Friday. There are a total of 48,178 active cases in the city, but only 1,480 Covid patients are in hospitals. Only 27 of them are on ventilator support, according to government data.
Chamber of Trade and Industry chairman Brijesh Goyal and president Subhash Khandelwal said that businessmen are worried about a lockdown.
The Omicron (variant of Covid) is not that dangerous. Many patients are recovering in home isolation, they claimed, adding that additional restrictions on markets will lead to financial losses to businessmen and their employees. Migrant workers said the situation so far has been manageable.
“(Arvind) Kejriwal has said there will be no lockdown. A weekend curfew is manageable. I hope the situation doesn’t worsen,” Sudhan Mandal, 33, said.
Working at a government construction project in Central Delhi, Mandal said he had returned home in West Bengal’s Malda district during the 2020 lockdown. “It had become really difficult to arrange food during the first lockdown. It instilled fear among migrant workers. In 2021, I was so scared that I left for home before the lockdown started,” he said.
Swapan Jadhav, 35, a rickshaw puller from Jharkhand’s Sahebganj district, said families on the breadline would never want a lockdown.
“I have six members in my family, including four children. I went back to my village during the two lockdowns, but I could hardly find enough work there too. I can still manage with a weekend curfew, but a complete lockdown will break our back,” he said. If a lockdown becomes inevitable, the government should take care of lodging and food, Jadhav said.
Raj Kumar, 33, working at a government housing project site in Sewa Nagar, said that he and his co-workers were badly beaten up by police at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border when they were walking home during the first lockdown in 2020.
“Once I reached home, the situation became worse. There was no work for days. I did odd jobs to eke out a living,” Kumar, a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Sambhal district, said. “I stayed in Delhi for the entire lockdown duration last year. There was no point being beaten up by police again and remain jobless at home. The situation is not that bad this time. I survived the second lockdown, I can survive this too,” he added. Mohammad Saleem, 53, said he has realised there is no point returning home again and again.
“Earlier, people did not know much about coronavirus. Now, we have experienced it,” the rickshaw puller said. “I will sleep in my rickshaw if a lockdown is imposed again. My only request is that the government make arrangement for our food at least,” he added.
The Maharashtra government has also said most of the cases in Mumbai are asymptomatic and bed occupancy rate is low, asking people not to panic.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday tweeted: ” I reiterate that we want to curtail unnecessary crowding but not impose any lockdown. The fact is that no restrictions will be effective unless we all adhere to Covid protocols.”