India Covid news: Delhi chief minister tests positive after political rally as cases hit four-month high

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Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (centre) is greeted upon his arrival ahead of a political rally in December 2021  (AFP via Getty Images)
Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (centre) is greeted upon his arrival ahead of a political rally in December 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

The chief minister of India’s national capital Arvind Kejriwal has tested positive for Covid-19, as Delhi and its surrounding areas have reported a surge in cases.

“I have tested positive for Covid. Mild symptoms. Have isolated myself at home. Those who came in touch with me in last few days, kindly isolate yourself and get yourself tested,” Mr Kejriwal said in a tweet on Tuesday.

The 53-year-old leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been criticised for holding political rallies ahead of upcoming elections in Delhi’s neighbouring states in the last few days, even as Covid infections have soared in the region.

Mr Kejriwal was in the city of Dehradun in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand and in Amritsar and Patiala in Punjab state, where elections will be held this year.

He was seen at several rallies without a mask, even as thousands flocked to hear the chief minister.

The lawmaker’s test result comes at a time when Delhi is witnessing a sharp resurgence in the number of daily Covid cases.

Almost 5,500 new infections were reported on Tuesday, an increase of around 1,500 from Monday and 11 times greater than the number a week ago.

On 28 December, Delhi had recorded 496 new cases within a 24-hour span.

The national capital’s positivity rate sky rocketed to 8.5 per cent on Tuesday, state health minister Satyendar Jain said. This figure was at 0.89 per cent on 28 December, according to official data.

The city had earlier been placed into a partial lockdown-like situation after a “yellow alert” was announced on 29 December, when the positivity rate had crossed 1 per cent.

A “yellow alert” requires cinema halls and gyms to be shut and shops to be allowed to function on an odd-even basis. Public transport services like metro trains and buses can only operate at half their capacity.

This surge of infections is being driven by the Omicron variant as at least 84 per cent of the cases over the weekend have been attributed to it, Mr Jain had earlier said on Monday.

World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines require the positivity rate to be below 5 per cent for an outbreak to be considered under control.

As per Delhi’s own disaster management guidelines, if the positivity rate remains above 5 per cent for two days, the national capital could face a “red alert” in which a complete curfew will be announced, with the exception of essential services.

Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister of Delhi, on Tuesday said the city would begin a curfew at weekends on top of the existing nightly curfew.

India is facing another surge in infections nationwide. The government on Tuesday reported more than 37,000 infections in the span of a day.

This is the greatest number of daily infections India has recorded in four months — the tally last hit 38,000 last September when the country was still grappling with the after effects of the devastating Delta-driven second wave.

Critics and political experts have questioned aggressive political campaigning being organised by several political leaders in India at a time when the new Omicron variant has seemingly pushed daily infections to a high not seen in months.

A total 1,892 Omicron cases have been confirmed in the country, with a deficit in facilities to conduct genome sequencing suggesting this is likely only a snapshot of the impact the variant is having on the ground.

Many of the confirmed Omicron cases are in Delhi and the state of Maharashtra, where the financial capital Mumbai is located.

India has logged 34.96 million Covid cases and 482,017 deaths since the pandemic first began in the country in 2020.

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