The Delhi government has relaxed some restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, starting with allowing buses to operate at full capacity. The government has also decided to allow up to 200 guests to attend wedding functions in the city -- up from the previous 50-people restriction.
The decision comes even as Delhi recorded over 5,000 COVID-19 cases for the fourth consecutive day on Saturday.
The number of passengers allowed to board buses in the national capital has been increased from 20 to full-seating capacity. However, no additional passengers will be allowed to stand inside the buses.
The Delhi government in May had directed that a maximum of 20 passengers in public transport buses will be allowed in view of maintaining proper social distance to check the spread of coronavirus.
Delhi has over 6,500 buses and there are 35-40 seats in each bus. On day one of relaxations, despite being a Sunday, buses were almost full.
Many passengers said the restrictions on seating were leading to long waiting periods and it's a relief now. "It's a good decision. Otherwise I had to wait for hours to get into a bus. My day would start at 5am and end at 8pm. I used to get late for work often and my employer used to get angry at me," a passenger said.
However, some felt that overcrowding would spread the infection as masks are often not worn properly.
Another passenger said: "This full seating will spread the infection more. Nobody wears the mask properly. A lot of people wear it under the nose. In the morning, a co-passenger took off his mask to cough in the open and then wore it back on, which defeats the whole purpose of wearing the mask. I would rather choose to wait longer for the bus."
Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain on Saturday said: "As long as people are wearing masks, there is no issue. If they aren't, then even the limit of 20 would be dangerous. We are not saying unlimited passengers. We are allowing only those that can be seated."
Experts say that implementing precautions at weddings will be a huge task.
Weddings can have up to 200 guests in closed spaces now instead of the earlier limit of 50. In open spaces, number of wedding guests that are permissible will be jointly fixed by the area's district magistrate and Deputy Commissioner Of Police.
Masks and thermal scanning will be mandatory at the venues while the organisers will have to nominate a nodal person to oversee all arrangements and coordination. Name and contact of the nodal person should be displayed at entry of the venue, the government has said. All public utility areas such as food stalls, stage and music system will have to be sanitised prior to the events.
Common bins for disposal of face masks, multiple hand-wash facilities, separate entry and exit gates and not more than 50 per cent of the capacity at a time in dining hall will be permitted.
Dr Vikas Maurya, Director and Head of Pulmonology at Fortis Hospital in Shalimar Bagh, said: "We are anyway reopening everything. All the markets, workplaces... so the number of people in a bus or a wedding -- 50 or 200 -- does not matter as much. But of course, it can't be unlimited either. It should be in proportion to the area where its happening. What really matters is implementing the precautions on masks and social distancing to ensure that everybody follows Covid-appropriate behaviour."
"Post the event also somebody will need to keep track -- a person who is responsible of enquiring for the next five-seven days about whether any guest developed symptoms. And then to carry out the contact-tracing in case someone tests positive," he added.
Delhi recorded 5,062 fresh COVID-19 cases on Saturday, taking the infection tally to over 3.86 lakh, even as the positivity rate jumped to nearly 11.5 per cent. The highest single-day spike till date -- 5,891 cases -- was recorded on Friday.