Delhi, Mumbai ease lockdown as India Covid numbers fall

Markets and shopping malls in New Delhi will be allowed to reopen from Monday in a further easing of the Covid lockdown, the chief minister said as infections fall in major Indian cities after weeks of restrictions.

Delhi Metro will also resume services at 50 per cent capacity, the city’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday.

Markets and malls will operate on alternate days, with half of them open on any given day.

Offices can also reopen at half capacity but Kejriwal urged people to still try to work from home.

The easing comes after Delhi allowed construction sites and factories to reopen last week.

‘They have been open for a week but the Covid situation is still under control, and we have less than 500 fresh cases in the last 24 hours,’ Kejriwal said.

‘It is important to bring the economy back on track now that the Covid situation improving. We pray that the situation remains the same.’

The government of Maharashtra state, which includes India’s economic powerhouse Mumbai, announced a five-level plan to ease restrictions depending on infection rates and hospital bed occupancy.

In level-one areas — with infection rates below five percent and hospital bed occupancy below 25 per cent — all shops, restaurants and malls will be allowed to reopen.

But level-five districts — with infection rates over 20 per cent — will remain under severe movement restrictions.

Daily infections reported across India have dropped to about 120,000 from more than 400,000 in May, according to official statistics.

Deaths have also fallen, with 3,380 reported in the previous 24 hours, although this is widely seen as a major underestimate.

At least 344,082 people in the country have lost their lives to the coronavirus, which is now surging in parts of rural India.

Delhi reported about 400 new infections Saturday, down from about 25,000 daily cases when the lockdown was announced seven weeks earlier.

The devastating surge was blamed on new virus variants and the government having allowed most activity to return to normal including mass religious and political gatherings.

India’s vaccination programme meanwhile is making slow progress due to shortages, confusion and squabbling between the central government and state authorities.

So far about 180 million people, only 14 per cent of the population, have received one dose, and 45 million, or 3.4 per cent, two shots.

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 37,14,923 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 10:00 GMT on Saturday.

At least 17,24,99,930 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.

The figures are based on daily reports provided by health authorities in each country.

They exclude revisions made by other statistical organisations, which show that the number of deaths is much higher.

The World Health Organisation estimates that the pandemic’s overall toll could be two to three times higher than official records, due to the excess mortality that is directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19.

A large number of the less severe or asymptomatic cases also remain undetected, despite intensified testing in many countries.

On Friday, 9,916 new deaths and 4,27,592 new cases were recorded worldwide.

Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were India with 3,380, followed by Brazil with 1,454 and the United States with 605.

The United States is the worst-affected country with 5,97,001 deaths from 3,33,46,365 cases.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 4,70,842 deaths from 1,68,41,408 cases, India with 3,44,082 deaths from 2,86,94,879 cases, Mexico with 2,28,568 deaths from 24,29,631 cases, and Peru with 1,85,813 deaths from 19,76,166 cases.