Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday announced an increase in fines for not wearing masks in the national Capital to Rs 2,000, from the existing penalty of Rs 500. Kejriwal said that Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal also agreed on the decision during a meeting.
“We agreed that to create effective deterrent so that people don’t omit wearing masks, we need to increase fine from the present Rs 500 to Rs 2000,” he tweeted.
The decision came a day after Delhi recorded the highest number of deaths in a single day due to coronavirus and the total tally of cases went past the 5 lakh-mark. Delhi has seen a spike in recent weeks, recording more new cases than any other state. The rising numbers coincide with a busy festival season and an alarming rise in air pollution.
On Wednesday, the city registered 131 coronavirus deaths – its highest one-day count so far. The Capital’s tally rose to 5,03,084 with 7,486 new cases in 24 hours. The government has started to reinstate restrictions, starting with revising the limit on wedding guests from 200, which was imposed from November 1, to 50. The administration may also shut markets which could be potential infection hotspots.
In a press briefing, Kejriwal urged political parties and religious and social organisations to distribute masks among people.
He also advised people against the use of ponds and other water bodies in public areas during the ongoing Chhath festival. “If even one person carries the coronavirus infection, all devotees using the water body are likely to be affected,” he said.
Earlier during the day, the chief minister held an all-party meeting on the coronavirus situation in the city. “I urged various parties to refrain from indulging into politics and making political statements on the prevailing situation,” he said.
He also briefed on the medical facilities available in Delhi, claiming that enough number of beds and ventilators were available in hospitals.
Earlier in the day, the Delhi High Court heavily criticised the Aam Aadmi Party-led government for not imposing timely restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus in the city, asking why it took the administration 18 days to “shake out of their slumber” and revise the limit on wedding guests from 200 to 50.
The High Court asked the government why it did not act immediately when they saw the situation was deteriorating. “The bell should have rung loud and clear when the numbers were spiralling,” the bench said. “Why did we have to shake you out of your slumber on November 11?”
The court said the Delhi government has been “incorrectly saying in the press that the third wave has peaked, while the numbers suggest otherwise”. It also questioned why were the restrictions on the movement of people relaxed at “such a critical situation, especially when festival season was in full swing and under the prevailing poor air quality”.