Delhi imposes six-day lockdown; U.P. declines Allahabad HC directive on shutdown

An image at Gazipur border on Sunday midnight, during weekend lockdown imposed in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases, in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Delhi government on Monday announced a six-day lockdown to stem what it termed a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases which had stretched the Capital’s health infrastructure to its limits.

The Uttar Pradesh government, however, declined the Allahabad High Court’s directive to forthwith strictly enforce a complete lockdown in five major cities, including Lucknow, till April 26 arguing that along with lives it was also necessary to safeguard people’s livelihoods.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, while announcing the lockdown, said the decision was made during his meeting with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Monday morning where both agreed that the situation had left no other option and a lockdown now was necessary to prevent a possible ‘tragedy’.

Strained by the rush of thousands of patients emerging to depend on it on a daily basis, the Delhi health system had not collapsed as yet but restrictions at this point were necessary to avert a situation where patients were lying in hospital corridors or “losing their lives on the streets”.

LG Baijal, according to Raj Nivas sources, instructed that the issue of migrant labourers and workers be “totally addressed” during the implementation of the curfew.

It was also decided that the LG would write to UP CM Adityanath with regards to oxygen supply in the Capital and also speak to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan about enhancement of hospital beds in Delhi.

“You know that I have always been strictly against a lockdown but both the LG and I agreed that we have no option because the city’s health system has reached its limit,” Mr. Kejriwal said.

“I appeal to migrant labourers not to leave the city because it is a short lockdown. We will take very good care of you. During these six days, we will make arrangements for oxygen, medicines and hospital beds. We will confront this situation and we will win.”

However, despite the Delhi Chief Minister’s assurance, the extension of the lockdown till next Monday just hours after a weekend curfew announced last Thursday triggered, yet again this year, a desperate exodus of migrant workers — most notably from the Anand Vihar area which has both an inter-State bus terminal and a railway station in close proximity — almost immediately after the announcement.

According to the government, essential service providers such as doctors, police personnel, the media and students going for exams will be allowed on the production of ID cards or admit cards.

An e-pass will be required for movement by grocery shop employees, food and e-commerce delivery personnel. Religious places will be allowed to open but not allowed to have visitors. Those heading to weddings will be allowed to given the production of an invitation card.

The Delhi Metro and public buses will only cater up to 50% of their capacity; malls, gyms, cinemas will be shut and no religious, political or social gatherings will be allowed.

Uttar Pradesh recorded 167 deaths and 28,287 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours including 5,897 cases and 22 deaths in Lucknow.

Blaming the government for the “present chaotic health problems” and not planning in advance, the court directed it to enforce a complete lockdown in Lucknow, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Kanpur and Prayagraj and consider imposition of a complete lockdown in the entire State for at least two weeks. “Those in the helm of affairs of governance are to be blamed for the present chaotic health problems,” the court said.

A division bench of Justices Siddhartha Varma and Ajit Kumar criticised the government for only “harping upon” the interests of the economy. “You may have grocery shops with full of eatables and industries which produce bikes and cars but all this won’t be of any use if your medical shops run out of stock of life saving drugs like Remdesivir in the current surge of pandemic. It is a shame that while the government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance,” the judges said.

Noting that the efforts of the government to increase 20 beds every day in Prayagraj and come up with makeshift hospitals with a capacity of 3,000 beds in Lucknow were insufficient to match the new cases coming in, around 8,000-9,000 in just two districts, the court said, “If people die of pandemic in a large number due to paucity of sufficient medical aid, it would be the governments to blame which failed to counter the pandemic even after one long year of experience and learning.”

It appears that the pandemic is teasing the system in a situation where patients have outnumbered the hospital beds and people are just running from pillar to post and in this process attendants of patients are not only getting infected but others in public are also getting infected and a complete chain has got formed, the court observed.

“Before it further spirals to engulf in it the entire population of these badly hit districts, it is necessary to take some harsh steps in larger public interest.”

It said despite its last directions on restricting public movement, “no concrete plan has yet been chalked out” by the State government.

The U.P. government in its reaction admitted that cases had gone up and it was necessary to bring in strict measures but said no complete lockdown would be enforced at this stage.

“The government has taken several steps and would take further strict steps. Along with saving lives, also need to save the livelihoods of the poor. Therefore, there shall be no complete lockdown in the cities as of now,” the government said. People are voluntarily shutting down [their establishments] in some places, it said.

The judges also recorded their displeasure at the way the government and the State Election Commission proceeded to hold the panchayat election forcing teachers and other government staff to perform duties exposing themselves to the threat of pandemic. “The police were virtually shifted to polling places giving priority to election above public health. One would only laugh at us that we have enough to spend on elections and very little to spend on public health.”

The court directed the government to close down all establishments, government and private, shopping complexes and malls, hotels, restaurants and all eating points, educational institutes, all grocery shops with more than three workers till April 26 in five cities.

The court also noted that it emerged from the government hospitals that admission of patients to ICUs was largely being done on the recommendation of VIPs and that even supply of drugs like Remdesivir was being provided only on the recommendation of VIPs. While VIPs were getting their RT-PCR reports within 12 hours, the ordinary citizen was kept waiting for two-three days, the judges said.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 12:08:57 PM |

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