Jolted by the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the national capital moved slowly towards normal life as shops in markets and malls reopened on odd-even basis on Monday after nearly two months, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealing to people to take all precautions against coronavirus.
The Delhi Metro, the lifeline of the city, also resumed services on Monday, but with 50 per cent seating capacity and no provision for standing travel for commuters.
Although all standalone and neighbourhood shops, including liquor vends, started functioning, cinemas, theatres, restaurants (except home delivery and take away), bars, gyms, spas, barber shops, salons, beauty parlours and weekly markets will remain closed till further orders.
Kejriwal appealed to people to follow COVID-19 guidelines amid the unlocking process in the city.
“Many activities are resuming in Delhi from today. But take all the precautions to prevent coronavirus completely – wear a mask, keep social distance and keep washing hands, there should be no laxity at all,” he said in a tweet in Hindi. “One has to stay away from coronavirus infection and also bring the economy back on track,” he added.
The shops in the markets and malls reopened on odd-even basis in accordance with their numbers, even as there were markets like south Delhi’s Krishna market where most shops remained closed.
Atul Bhargav, president, New Delhi Traders Association representing shop owners in Connaught Place, said all arrangements were in place to ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour.
“However, the odd-even formula for opening retail shops is against our interests. We have enough space here in Connaught Place and most of the shopkeepers and their employees have already got the jabs. The government should treat retail and wholesale sectors differently,” he said.
Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, Confederation of All India Traders said the odd-even is a “rejected formula” as far as the trade is concerned in Delhi and rather staggered timings of different markets would have been a better option to not only reduce human traffic in the markets, but also to provide ease of shopping to Delhiites.
The government has allowed all private offices to operate with 50 per cent capacity between 9 am and 5 pm. However, Kejriwal urged all those who can work from home to continue to do so.
Police and the district administration have formed teams to ensure no Covid norms are broken as the markets, malls and complexes reopen from 10 am to 8 pm.
“Our teams have been deployed in the field for enforcement and awareness so the unlock process operates smoothly,? a senior police officer in west Delhi district said. Besides the markets and malls, standalone shops also reopened in the city, adding a hint of busy city life.
“People are still under awe of their experience in the last two months of Covid surge. I hope the situation will improve and customers will return in the coming days,” said Varun, an electronic goods shop owner in Laxmi Nagar.
A senior police officer said the shop owners in markets have been briefed to follow norms to protect themselves from the infection. “Our teams are in the field. People are normally following the precautions, but we are keeping a watch as the day progresses and more people are on the roads and markets,” he said.
The Delhi Metro resumed services on Monday after a hiatus of nearly three weeks. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) services were fully suspended since May 20 in view of the Covid-induced lockdown, which was first imposed on April 19 and then successively extended by the city government.
Metro services initially ran partially, catering only to people from essential services, but from May 10, it was suspended in view of rising cases amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, trains begun plying with the scheduled starting time for services being 6 am. “Only half of the available trains will be inducted into service with a frequency ranging from nearly five to 15 minutes on different lines,” a DMRC official had said on Sunday.
The Delhi government offices opened with Group A officers and 50 per cent staff of lower ranks working there. However, all officers and staff associated with essential services will work without any restrictions.
The chief minister had on Saturday announced various relaxations in the ongoing lockdown that was imposed on April 19, saying the Covid situation was improving and the economy of the city needed to be revived.
On Sunday, Delhi reported 381 new instances of the COVID-19 infection, the lowest since March 15, with the positivity rate dipping to 0.5 per cent.
Also, 34 more people have succumbed to the disease in a day, the lowest in around two months. These new fatalities have pushed the death toll here to 24,591.