Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain on Monday claimed the city was reporting a high number of coronavirus-related deaths because of agricultural fires in neighbouring states, reported PTI. Jain said a downward trend in Capital’s fatality rate is expected in the next two to three weeks with a fall in pollution levels.

Delhi recorded 6,746 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday and a positivity rate of 12.29%, while 121 more deaths pushed the city’s toll to 8,391. This was the fifth time in 11 days that the daily number of deaths crossed the 100-mark in the national Capital.

An analysis by PTI showed that at least five persons died due to Covid-19 every hour on an average in Delhi in 24 hours. While a total of 511 coronavirus-related deaths were recorded in India in a day on Monday, the Capital accounted for the largest chunk with 121 fatalities.

“There was heavy pollution due to stubble-burning amid the Covid-19 pandemic and it came as a double attack,” Jain told reporters. “Since the pollution due to stubble-burning is less now, the downtrend in deaths will be there in a few weeks.”

Every year, farmers are criticised for causing the worst air pollution in Delhi because of the burning of stubbles in fields. In neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab, they traditionally resort to the method during the months of October and November as a cheap way of clearing their fields after harvesting the crops. Despite a ban on stubble burning, farmers say they have no choice but to set fire to the crop residue as they cannot afford any delay in getting their fields cleared before sowing the next crop.

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Pollution has also been aggravated by smog from fireworks, despite a complete ban on the sale and use of crackers.

The emergency pollution levels this year have aggravated the coronavirus situation in the Capital, with the city logging its worst figures yet in the month of November.

On November 19, the city recorded 7,546 new cases with 98 deaths, taking the total toll to 8,041. The highest number of cases had been reported on November 11 with around 8,593 cases. That week, the city recorded an average 7,000 fresh cases daily. On November 18, Delhi recorded 131 deaths, the highest so far because of the virus. Additionally, it recorded 21% of all new deaths in India in the past week, Mint reported on November 19.

In response, the Delhi government has increased fines for not wearing masks from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000, withdrawn a decision to allow weddings with up to 200 guests and forwarded to the Central government a proposal to shut down markets that are seeing big crowds.

However, on Monday, the Delhi government withdrew its order to shut down two markets – Punjabi Basti Market and Janta Market in West Delhi’s Nangloi area – in the national Capital, hours after it was issued.

Across India, 91,39,865 cases have been reported till Monday, with 44,059 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours. The toll rose by 511 to 1,33,738. As many as 85,62,641 people have recovered so far.

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