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Covid-19: Delhi tightens restrictions; NCR put on alert

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NEW DELHI: The home ministry on Thursday advised the governments of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to hold survey for assessing availability of beds, testing capacity and identification of ICU beds in private hospitals in the districts adjoining the national capital, where a surge in coronavirus cases has prompted authorities to tighten curbs. Earlier in the day, Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had said the penalty for not wearing a face mask outdoors is being raised to Rs 2,000 from Rs 500, and that all nonemergency planned surgeries should be deferred.

“After home minister’s review meeting on Delhi’s Covid situation, more than 28,708 RT-PCR tests were conducted on November 18,” the home ministry said in a statement. “Capacity of RT-PCR tests to be ramped up to 60,000 per day by end of November; ten multi-disciplinary teams of MHA (ministry of home affairs) constituted to visit more than 100 private hospitals for assessing bed utilisation, testing capacity and identify extra ICU beds, have submitted reports, which are under consideration of DGHS.”

The decision, officials said, comes in the wake of the 12-point directions issued by home minister Amit Shah on November 15. Shah had held a review meeting with health minister Harsh Vardhan, Kejriwal and Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal.

Delhi witnessed a surge in Covid-19 cases from October 28, when the count of daily new infections topped 5,000 for the first time. On November 11 the city had recorded 8,000 new cases. On Thursday, Delhi containment zones were up from 4,444 to 4,509. As many as 7,546 new cases were reported on Thursday, taking the total number of active cases to 43,221 and total to over 5.1 lakh.

According to the home ministry, about 150 ICU beds were added in Delhi over the last three days. The current capacity of 3,652 ICU beds in the city will be further ramped up. At the ITBP’s Covid-19 care centre, more than 500 isolation beds with oxygen facility will be made available by this weekend, it said.

At an all-party meeting, Kejriwal appealed to leaders to put aside politics and work towards increasing awareness among people. He requested political parties to ask cadres to distribute masks and urge people to follow social distancing rules.

“Some great suggestions were received from all the parties, and we will work on implementing the suggestions,” Kejriwal said. “This is a difficult situation for Delhiites… We have to keep politics, making political statements and remarks, and blaming each other aside, since this is the time to serve the people… All the parties agreed to serve the people of the country, as Delhiites and as Indians. I am glad that all parties have supported this.”

Meanwhile, Delhi has reintroduced some measures to check the virus spread. All hospitals have been asked to postpone non-essential planned surgeries.

He also urged people to celebrate Chhath Puja at home. Besides, MBBS students and interns will be engaged to tackle the situation.

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