Indian capital lifts weekend curfew as Omicron wave slows

Delhi also allows restaurants and marketplaces to reopen following a sharp drop in new COVID-19 infections.

A woman receives a dose of Covaxin, a coronavirus disease vaccine
A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in New Delhi [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

India’s capital Delhi has lifted a weekend curfew and allowed restaurants and marketplaces to reopen following a sharp drop in new infections of COVID-19.

Under new orders, however, the city will remain under night-time curfew, and schools will be closed, a top Delhi official said, as government data suggested India’s recent Omicron variant outbreak had slowed.

Restaurants, bars and cinemas in Delhi will be allowed to operate with up to 50 percent capacity and the number of people at weddings will be restricted to 200.

“In view of the decline in positive cases, it was decided to gradually ease restrictions while ensuring adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour,” Delhi’s lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, who represents the federal government, said.

The number of new cases in Delhi fell to 4,291 on January 27 from a peak of 28,867 on January 13. More than 85 percent of COVID beds across the city’s hospitals were unoccupied, government data showed.

“The hospitalisation is far, far lower compared to what we saw in the previous wave,” said Dr Desh Deepak, a senior physician with state-run Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi.

“Most patients who have died had underlying conditions such as cancer or kidney disease and most were not fully vaccinated.”

A labourer walks past the empty oxygen cylinders outside a COVID-19 care centre at an indoor sports complex in New Delhi, India, January 5, 2022
A labourer walks past empty oxygen cylinders outside a COVID-19 care centre in New Delhi [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

Last week, authorities eased some curbs, allowing private offices to be partially staffed but advised people to work from home as much as possible.

The capital has been one of the worst-hit in the ongoing third wave led by the highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus and the city government had imposed the curfew on January 4 and ordered schools and restaurants to close.

India on Friday reported 251,209 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, taking the overall tally to 40.62 million, the health ministry said. Deaths increased by 627 and total fatalities were 492,327.

Late on Thursday, the federal home ministry urged states to remain vigilant and said it was a concern that 407 districts across 34 states and Union Territories were reporting an infective rate of more than 10 percent, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla told them in a letter.

“In the last five to seven days, there is an early indication of COVID cases plateauing… but we need to observe and take precautions,” health ministry official Lav Agarwal told a news conference on Thursday.

India was battered by a devastating COVID outbreak last year that saw 200,000 people killed in a matter of weeks, overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums.

Since then, the country has administered more than 1.6 billion vaccine doses and expanded its inoculation drive to teenagers, while giving booster shots to vulnerable people and front-line workers.

The current wave of the pandemic comes weeks before assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and home to 220 million people.

Election authorities have restricted public campaign rallies, normally teeming with huge crowds, over fears they could spread the virus.

Source: News Agencies