Delhi Must Reopen, Says Arvind Kejriwal. Health Minister Says Opposite

Delhi Coronavirus Cases: On Sunday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said that the national capital is "ready to lift the lockdown".

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan spoke to reporters this afternoon on situation in Delhi.

New Delhi:

Delhi should allow "only minimum relaxations" and stringent measures are required to tackle the highly contagious coronavirus in the city, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said this afternoon, adding that this was his "personal opinion". His remarks came a day after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the national capital is "ready to lift the lockdown" in line with the centre's latest guidelines released last week.

"It's not correct for me to comment on the situation in the city (Delhi) as it may be considered a political statement. However, personally, I feel that Delhi is one of the few states in the country where stringent measures are required to tackle the pandemic," Dr Harsh Vardhan told reporters.

"Only minimum relaxations should be allowed. While Home Ministry has given detailed guidelines, each state has to take a decision considering the situation or the extent of the outbreak," he added.

The national capital has reported over 4,500 COVID-19 patients so far, the third highest in the country; 64 deaths linked to the illness have been reported from the city which has over 90 containment zones. The city recorded its highest-single day spike on Sunday with 427 new patients. 

On Sunday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said that the national capital is "ready to lift the lockdown". "The time has come to re-open Delhi. We will have to be ready to live with coronavirus," he declared at a press conference.

Indicating a phased removal of the lockdown, the Chief Minister said Delhi is prepared to ease restrictions "in places other than containment zones". The reason, he said, is that Delhi is "prepared in terms of hospitals and kits".

This morning as alcohol shops - shut since March 25 when the nationwide lockdown started - re-opened, policemen were seen resorting to use of force as people flouted social distancing norms. In several parts of the city, liquor stores were closed again soon after huge crowds started gathering outside the outlets.

Private offices have been permitted to re-open in the city, but only with 33 per cent of the work force. Sectors like IT hardware manufacturing, essential goods manufacturing units can continue. Weddings have been allowed with 50 people in attendance, funerals with 20 people.

Stationery shops, standalone and neighbourhood shops and residential lane shops for both essential and non-essential services have been allowed to re-open. Also, self-employed people like technicians, plumbers, electricians and household help can resume services.

Across India, coronavirus count has crossed the 40,000-mark; over 1,300 patients have died.