Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday claimed the coronavirus situation in the Capital – which has been recording over 7,000 cases every day over the past week – would come under control within seven to 10 days.
“Covid-19 cases have been increasing for the last few days,” the chief minister said at a press briefing. “I am also concerned about it. We have been taking all appropriate measures to control it. We are considering taking more steps next week. I think the situation should come under control in 7 to 10 days and the cases should start decreasing.”
Kejriwal added that pollution was the main reason behind the sharp rise in infections. “We had situation under control until October 20,” he said. “The people of Delhi had managed to curb the spread of coronavirus in the city. But because of pollution there is a sudden rise in infections.”
Delhi’s air pollution typically worsens in October and November due to farmers burning stubble in neighbouring states, unfavourable wind speed and local emission of traffic fumes in the city. Firecrackers ignited for Diwali add to the problem.
The city’s air quality dipped to the “severe category” earlier this month and remained so for seven consecutive days. On Friday, the air quality was “very poor”, data from the Central Pollution Control Board showed.
The emergency situation this year also comes as Delhi is possibly suffering a “third wave” of coronavirus infections. On Thursday, the city recorded 7,053 new cases in a day, taking the infection tally in the Capital to over 4.67 lakh, while 104 more fatalities – the highest in over five months – pushed the toll to 7,332. Before that, Delhi had recorded its highest ever single-day rise of 8,593 infections on Wednesday.
Health experts worry that high air pollution levels over a prolonged period have compromised the disease resistance of people living in Delhi, making them more susceptible to the coronavirus.
Kejriwal in his address chastised the Centre and state governments of neighbouring states for allegedly politicising the pollution problem and said they were not doing enough to prevent agricultural fires.
“The farmers are unhappy, the people of Delhi are unhappy, citizens of Punjab and Haryana are also unhappy,” he said. “Every year around this time, there is noise, debate and politics, but never a solution to the problem.”
The chief minister then referred to an anti-stubble solution prepared by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, that he said had decomposed 70% to 95% of crop residue in 24 villages in Delhi. He urged the Centre and state governments of Haryana and Punjab to adopt its usage to prevent stubble burning.
“The Delhi government will submit the report along with a petition to Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, and urge it to issue directions to all state government to implement it,” he added.