Covid: New Omicron variants see mask mandate restored in Indian capital

·3-min read
File: Indian primary school students at their first day of school after Covid restrictions were eased   (EPA)
File: Indian primary school students at their first day of school after Covid restrictions were eased (EPA)

Amid a surge in Covid cases in India’s national capital, the Delhi government on Wednesday has decided to bring back mask mandates, including fines for violations.

A high-level review meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) was conducted, which was also attended by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, revenue minister Kailash Gahlot as well as senior officials of the health department.

At the meeting, it was decided to bring back mask mandates and impose a fine of Rs 500 (£5) on those who are found not wearing masks.

While schools, markets and other economic activities are expected to continue without any restrictions, officials also decided in the meeting that random testing will be conducted at public places including metro stations and markets.

“Further, a decision has been taken to keep a close watch on the situation as B.1.10 and B.1.12 variants of Covid-19 are said to be more transmissible. The hospitalization trend will also be closely monitored for the next fortnight and genome sequencing of all RT-PCR positive samples will be conducted,” a DDMA official was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

The DDMA had decided to withdraw the penalty on mask violations in public places earlier this month in view of a declining covid cases.

After a DDMA meeting on 31 March, Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal had said in a statement on Twitter that with the declining Covid cases, the focus should move to hospitals.

“Notwithstanding the decline in COVID positive cases, after detailed discussions with experts it was decided to focus on hospital based sentinel surveillance and enhancing vaccination coverage of the targeted population,” he said.

“While appreciating the efforts made by all stakeholders in management of COVID-19, emphasised upon the need to follow the 5-fold strategy of Test, Track, Treat, Vaccinate and adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour as advised by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GOI (Government of India).”

The move to bring back mask mandates comes a day after the federal government wrote to the union territory of Delhi and three other states to reinforce masks after India reported a spike in Covid cases.

“India has witnessed a sustained and significant decline in the number of Covid-19 cases over the past two months, with the country reporting less than 1000 daily new cases for the past few days. The weekly positivity rate has remained below 1%. There are few states which are reporting a higher contribution to India’s daily new cases,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan was quoted as saying in a letter on Tuesday to the chief secretaries of the states to Uttar Pradesh, Mizoram, Haryana and Delhi.

He noted that Delhi reported 998 new cases in the week ending April 12 in comparison to 2,671 new cases recorded in the last week. “The Union Territory has also seen an increase in positivity in the last week from 1.42% to 3.49%,” he wrote.

On Tuesday Delhi recorded 632 fresh Covid cases with a marginal drop in the positivity rate from Monday’s 7.72 per cent to 4.42 per cent.

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