Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that economic activities should resume in the city in the fourth phase of the lockdown, the Hindustan Times reported on Saturday. However, Kejriwal said that there should be no relaxations in containment zones.
In his letter dated May 14, the Aam Aadmi Party leader suggested that markets, malls, public transport, including the Delhi Metro, and offices should be allowed to function with limited staff, while following physical distancing norms. However, school, salons, spas, barber shops, cinema halls, hotels and dine-in services at restaurants and cafes must continue to remain shut.
Earlier this week, the Centre had asked states for their feedback about the extension of the lockdown by May 15. The lockdown was first imposed from March 25 to April 14 to curb the spread of infection. It was then extended twice – first till May 3 and then till May 17. While Modi has indicated that the lockdown will be extended but with more relaxed ruled, the Centre is yet to announce it officially.
Kejriwal said that restrictions in containment zones should stay, but economic activities elsewhere should resume. “Social distancing and wearing masks should be made mandatory,” he said, while admitting that the relaxations will lead to a rise in Covid-19 infections. However, he said, “We have prepared for it by making adequate arrangements for hospitals, ventilators, oxygen requirements, ambulances, ICUs [Intensive Care Units] etc.”
Delhi is one of the states with the highest number of coronavirus cases. Till Saturday, it recorded 9,333 cases and 129 deaths.
Kejriwal has suggested that the Delhi Metro should resume its services, but with riders. He said the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation should make arrangements to leave a seat vacant in between. People working in government offices should be allowed to travel during morning and evening office hours, the letter stated, adding that those involved in essential services and who have movement passes from district authorities should be allowed to travel only between 10.30 am and 5.30 pm.
His recommendations added that buses should not have more than 20 people during a journey, and autorickshaws and cycle-rickshaws should seat only one passenger for a ride. Taxis, including Ola and Uber cabs services, can seat two passengers in addition to the driver.
In his letter, Kejriwal said people should not be allowed outside between 9 pm and 5 am, unless for essential services. Currently, people can step out only between 7 am and 7 pm, and only essential services such as visiting a chemist or buying groceries are permitted otherwise.
Kejriwal said that all markets and market complexes shall remain open on odd-even basis, that is, shops would open on alternate days depending on their shop number. “However, shops selling essential goods, books and stationery shops and fans shops are permitted to [remain] open on all days.”
An unidentified official told the newspaper that the complete relaxation for shops selling fans will also cover those selling air-conditioners and air coolers, since Delhi is now heading into peak summer season.
Kejriwal’s proposal added that the number of shops open in malls should not exceed 33%, and the officials managing malls will be responsible for this.
The chief minister suggested that offices can start functioning with 50% staff, but those who can work from home should continue to do so. He said all employees must download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones. However, the Delhi government has not yet issued an advisory about the app.
The Centre and the Opposition Congress have been involved in a war of words over the app with the Centre claiming that the app is “robust and safe”, but the Opposition saying that it is a “sophisticated surveillance system” with privacy concerns.
Kejriwal said that parks and playgrounds should also open with only no-contact sports. According to The Wire, he recommended that people over 65 years of age, pregnant women and children below 10 should stay at home as per the central government directives.
The AAP leader said that all schools, colleges, training and coaching institutions should remain closed, while exams should be allowed after June 1 and online and distance learning be permitted.
Kejriwal said that they have followed the Centre’s rules entirely and will work with the Union government in the fight ahead. The letter was sent to Modi after Kejriwal met Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Thursday evening. Earlier on Thursday, Kejriwal had said that his government received over five lakh suggestions from people over two days on easing lockdown restrictions.