Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Tuesday that his government will implement the extended Covid-19 lockdown in full and officials in his administration ruled out any restrictions being eased before May 3 unless the Centre specifically wants them to be relaxed.
Welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to extend the lockdown until May 3, Kejriwal asked residents of Delhi to strictly follow the restrictions in the city where the Sars-CoV-2 virus has infected 1,561 people and claimed 30 lives, until the battle against the disease goes on. Thirty people have so far been cured of the disease
"Delhi will fully implement PM's lockdown measures," Kejriwal wrote on the microblogging site Twitter.
Modi said in a televised address on Tuesday that the nationwide three-week lockdown, which was to end on Tuesday, would remain in force until May 3.
He said the Centre may relax restrictions in some geographies after April 20 depending on the effectiveness with which the lockdown is enforced and new Covid-19 cases are stanched. Guidelines on the possible relaxations will be released on Wednesday.
Senior officials in the Delhi government said the ongoing restrictions will continue, and no relaxation will be allowed on the movement of people and private vehicles, except for those engaged in the essential services.
"We are waiting for the detailed guidelines to come from the central government. If they ask us to relax certain sectors, we would. But, on our own, we have no plans as of now because of the increasing Covid-19 cases in the city," said an official, who did not want to be named.
On Monday, the national capital had seen the highest spike (356 cases) in infections on a single day.
The number of containment zones in Delhi on Tuesday increased from 47 to 55, the district administration said it had been instructed to follow containment and lockdown measures stringently, and consider lifting the restrictions gradually only if the number of positive Covid-29 cases in an area comes down to zero.
"Relaxations in a containment zone or a hotspot and the areas surrounding it (buffer zones) will be allowed only if there is no new case reported in there for at least 14 consecutive days," said a senior official in the health department on condition of anonymity.
According to the Prime Minister, the authorities will keep a close watch on how strictly the lockdown guidelines are followed over the days running up to April 20.
Areas that score satisfactorily in the assessment are expected to get a breather, with limited activities being allowed to benefit daily-wage workers.
But a breather from the restrictions will be offered only if officials are satisfied that an area has eliminated the threat of Covid-19 to a large extent. If a case surfaces or resurfaces, the relaxations will be rolled back.
An official in the chief minister's office said some relaxations could be given to offices, industries, factories and stores after April 20, but that too will depend on Delhi's Covid-19 curve..
"One proposal is that offices and factories of some sectors, as specified by the Central government, will be allowed to operate but only with about 50% workforce or so. For factories which require daily wage workers and labourers, it is being considered that the owners be asked to arrange for their overnight stay within the premises or somewhere else. Staggered workforce and work times will be the key," the official said.
"If it continues to spike like it did yesterday (Monday), the restrictions will be stricter. This means the lockdown will be enforced very strictly. Not just the containment zones, but also in the neighbouring areas of these zones," the official said, requesting anonymity.
To curb the spread of the coronavirus in neighbourhoods, district magistrates across the city on Tuesday began forming "Corona Foot Warriors Containment and Surveillance Teams" in the areas under their jurisdiction. A total of 13,742 teams will be deployed across the city and each team will be led by a Booth Level Officer (BLO).
"By tomorrow, all districts are expected to be ready with their teams," said an official in the chief secretary's office.
These teams will have to do field inspections to ensure compliance with the lockdown rules, conduct foot patrols to cover every household to identify suspected Coivid-19 cases, ensure their secure transport to hospitals,and keep health workers in the loop.