COVID-19: Delhi announces weekend curfew as cases cross 5,000 mark; positivity rate rises to 8.37%

Health Minister Satyendar Jain, however, asserted that no lockdown was being imposed in the national capital.

The Delhi government on Tuesday announced a weekend curfew and work from home for its offices as the city recorded 5,481 fresh COVID-19 cases, the highest number since May 16, with a positivity rate of 8.37 percent and three fatalities.

Health Minister Satyendar Jain, however, asserted that no lockdown was being imposed in the national capital.

Taking to Twitter, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal informed he had tested positive for COVID-19 and did not attend the Delhi Disaster Management Authority chaired by Lt Governor Anil Baijal that took the decisions on the new curbs.

Citing the rise in positivity rate, the city government also directed all private hospitals and nursing homes with 50 beds or more to reserve at least 40 percent of their total bed capacity for coronavirus patients.

Addressing an online media briefing, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that buses and metros will run with full seating capacity daily as long queues were being seen at bus stops and stations which could become “super spreaders” after the capacity had been halved.

Sisodia, who is also the nodal minister for COVID-19 management, said that during weekdays, government employees, barring those engaged in essential services, will be asked to work from home, while private offices will remain open with 50 percent capacity.

During the weekend curfew that will come into force at 10 PM on Friday and will be in place till 5 AM on Monday to tackle a surge in COVID-19 driven by Omicron, all essential services will be allowed in the national capital. The city Tuesday recorded 382 omicron cases while there were 351 cases a day earlier.

Along with weekend curfew, night curfew will also continue to be in place during weekdays.

According to official figures, 5,481 cases recorded on Tuesday were the highest since May 16, when the national capital had recorded 6,456 cases and 262 fatalities.

The three fatalities reported on Tuesday are also the highest since August 18, when the national capital reported 36 coronavirus cases and four deaths.

While 531 COVID-19 patients are currently admitted to hospitals, 16,249 patients were in hospitals on May 16 last week when the city was in the middle of a lockdown with several restrictions.

During the online briefing on Tuesday, Sisodia said that based on the experiences so far, experts believe that the Omicron variant of COVID is not fatal.

“There will be a curfew on Saturdays and Sundays. People are requested to step out only when it is absolutely necessary. The weekend curfew will begin from Friday evening to Monday morning,” Sisodia said.

He said that there have been relaxations for essential services in past too and the same will be available this time.

“There have been lockdowns before so people have a fair idea about what is allowed and what is not,” the deputy chief minister said.

E-pass will be issued to those engaged in essential services during the weekend curfew, he added.

Earlier in the day, Kejriwal, who had been campaigning for Aam Aadmi Party in poll-bound Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in recent days, tweeted that he has tested positive for coronavirus.

“I have tested positive for COVID. Mild symptoms. Have isolated myself at home. Those who came in touch wid (with) me in last few days, kindly isolate urself (yourself) and get urself tested,” the chief minister said.

According to officials, this is the first time Kejriwal has tested positive for COVID-19.

On December 28, the DDMA had declared a ‘yellow alert’ after the positivity rate crossed the 0.5 percent mark, and closed down cinemas and gyms.

Shops dealing in non-essential items in markets and malls will continue to operate on odd-even bases as there has been no change in restrictions imposed under the ‘yellow alert’ last week.

Interacting with reporters on Tuesday, Jain claimed that the coronavirus situation was “under control” and asked people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour to help contain the spread of the infection.

Asked about the Omicron situation, he said, experts have been saying that the spike in Covid cases in Delhi should be considered largely due to the latest variant.

On the new restrictions, the health minister said weekend curfew was being imposed in view of the rising COVID cases, and added, “there is no lockdown being imposed in Delhi. Construction activities will also continue”.

The government said that fourteen patients are currently on ventilator support, while 168 patients with moderate symptoms are on oxygen support. A total of 308 patients are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and are without oxygen support.

Delhi reported 3,194 COVID-19 cases with a positivity rate of 4.59 percent on Sunday and 2,716 cases with a positivity rate of 3.6 percent on Saturday.

On Friday and Thursday, 1,796 and 1,313 cases were recorded with a positivity rate of 1.73 percent and 2.44 percent respectively, according to official figures.

The Delhi government on Tuesday directed all private hospitals and nursing homes with 50 beds or more to reserve at least 40 percent of their total bed capacity for coronavirus patients.

The order stated that the positivity rate has exponentially risen from 2.44 percent on December 31, 2021 to more than eight percent on Tuesday and the transmissibility of Omicron variant is very high and the number of Omicron positive cases in the community are rising exponentially.

An official said that as advised by experts in the DDMA meeting on Tuesday, the health department was directed to scale up preparedness relating to infrastructure and human resources in view of a possible surge in Covid cases in the coming days.

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