Monuments across the national capital reopened Monday amid relaxations from the coronavirus lockdown with Covid safety measures in place. Though the government has restricted the number of visitors to ensure social distancing, the reopening offers hope to tourist guides who have had no source of livelihood since the lockdown was imposed late in March. However, as Delhi's coronavirus figures crossed the 1 lakh-mark, staff at some the monuments NDTV visited said the number of visitors was not even a tenth of the pre-lockdown times.
Delhi's iconic historic sites welcomed visitors even as India's most famous monument, the Taj Mahal in Agra, remained shut along with other iconic places in the city as per the orders of the local administration.
Approaching the entry gate at Delhi's Qutub Minar and Humayun's Tomb, social distancing floor markers welcomed visitors, who were scanned for their body temperature near the foot pedal sanitiser dispenser. Security staff inside the monuments has been instructed to ensure there is no crowding and all people are wearing masks.
Ticket counters have been replaced by boards displaying QR codes that have to be scanned to buy tickets. All cash counters for buying tickets have been removed to reduce contact and spread of the coronavirus.
On Day 1, most visitors struggled with the digital transaction procedure, but managed. However, if the e-ticketing system remains in place for long, it could deprive many people, who do not have smartphones or are from economically backward sections of the society, of the monument viewing experience.
There were very few visitors on Monday.
According to Archaeological Survey of India, Qutub Minar and Humayun's Tomb welcomes 6,000-7,000 tourists each, on a usual day before the coronavirus lockdown, but on Monday those numbers remained between 300 and 400, according to the staff at the two monuments.
Red Fort, which usually received a footfall of 10,000 visitors per day, remained shut on Monday as per schedule and will reopen today.
The reopening has given some hope to tourist guides whose livelihood depends upon people visiting these monuments.
Kishori Mistry, 38, a tourist guide at the Qutub Minar for the last 20 years, said, "As long as international flights remain suspended and trains don't run in usual numbers, it is unlikely that things will improve for us. But, the reopening of the monuments is definitely a start. The last few months were very tough. I lost almost Rs 50,000 due to the coronavirus lockdown. I had to use all my savings to survive."
All sound-and-light shows and film shows at monuments have been suspended, as has group photography.
Aakash Kumar, a visitor at Humayun's Tomb, said he came because he needed to relax after "staying indoors for so long". "Here the spaces are so open that we aren't worried that social distancing would be an issue. Besides, we have to always remember that our safety is in our own hands," Mr Kumar said.
All monuments will remain open from 7am to 7pm.