The first of the three-week lockdown across the country has improved the air quality beyond recognition, but going out for morning walks is strictly prohibited, the Delhi Police said today. The police will post its personnel in various parks across the to take action against walkers and joggers as they are violating the lockdown by being out of doors.
"There is Section 144 everywhere in the national capital. If you need to come out it has to be only for essential services. You cannot move around everywhere," said Shalini Singh, the Joint Commissioner of Police (Western Range).
Under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, a person can be jailed for six months or have to pay Rs 1,000 as fine or both, for disobeying rules and endangering life, health and safety of another person. Since March 29, the police have filed cases against 153 people for violating curfew.
"The city is under lockdown. PM Modi while announcing it last week clearly said don't violate it and stay in your homes. Exercise in your home for few days," she added.
The countrywide lockdown was announced last week by Prime Minster Narendra Modi, who said it would be "curfew like". Asking people not to venture out of their houses, he said social distancing is the only way to stay safe against the virus, which has infected around 7 million people worldwide and killed nearly 34,000.
"If you are out walking in groups the purpose of lockdown is defeated," said Ms Singh, pointing to the usual habit of morning walkers, especially the elderly.
Health experts say the lockdown has entered crucial phase. "Today is the sixth day of lockdown and more people wull start showing symptoms.... we have to keep a strict vigil on our activities," said a health expert on condition of anonymity.
Some, however, say if people maintain a safe distance of one metre from another person, there is no risk.
"Technically the police are correct that walking does not come under essential services. But scientifically, the chances of infection are not there if one maintains social distancing," SK Chabara, the Chief of Pulmonary Medicine of Primus Hospital, told NDTV.
According to him, the police should encourage healthy practices. "If people are not violating the basic principle of Section 144 CrPC, they should be allowed," he said.
The Delhi Police also agrees that it may be a harsh decision, but maintains it is for the good of people in general. "We are only asking people to remain indoors for the safety of everyone," Ms Singh said.