Hotels in non-containment zones of Delhi have been allowed to re-open as part of the phased lifting of restrictions imposed during the coronavirus lockdown, a notification from the national capital's disaster management authority said Friday evening.
Government guidelines in force during the pandemic, which include the use of face masks and social distancing in public spaces, as well as other SOPs (standard operating procedures), like the use of hand sanitisers and thermal scans at all entry and exit points, must be followed at all times, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), said.
The DDMA has also permitted re-opening of weekly markets, albeit on a trial basis, with one weekly market per zone to open every day between August 24 and August 30.
The Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi had proposed both measures - re-opening of hotels and weekly markets - last month as part of the third phase of easing COVID-19 restrictions.
Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, who heads the DDMA, shot down both proposals, declaring that the Covid situation in the national capital continued to be "fragile". Subsequently Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia wrote to Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister, asking him to overrule Mr Baijal's decision.
"Coronavirus cases are steadily decreasing in Delhi and the situation is under control. Cases, however, are increasing in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, but over there hotels and weekly markets are allowed to function," Manish Sisodia pointed out.
Delhi has reported over 1.57 lakh cases so far, but fewer than 12,000 of these are active cases. The city, which at the peak of infection was second only to Maharashtra as the worst-affected region in the country, has since slipped out of the top five.
On Wednesday Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the coronavirus situation in the city was "much better now" and that it was time to focus on its economy.
According to the Delhi government, hotels in the city contribute around eight per cent to the GDP and the weekly markets provide jobs to around five lakh poor families.
"Now all hotels in Delhi will be opened. At the same time, the weekly market will be opened on a trial basis. In the meantime, everyone must exercise precautions and follow social distancing," Mr Kejriwal was quoted by news agency ANI this week.
The move to re-open hotels has been welcomed by the business community, which has described it as a "commendable step... to provide livelihood and employment opportunities".
On Thursday, and in preparation of today's announcement, the Delhi government also allowed liquor to be served in hotels and restaurants in the city. Bars will, however, continue to be closed.
The move to allow liquor to be sold is key for the cash-strapped Delhi government, which last year made Rs 7,000 crore from excise duties.
Restaurants in Delhi have had permission open from June 8, but with safety restrictions that included capping of seating capacity at 40 per cent, disposable menus and paper napkins.
With input from ANI