AGENCIES, New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced a steep Rs 2,000 fine — up from the current Rs 500 — for those caught without masks, to help control the coronavirus surge that’s in its third week. The Chief Minister also appealed to all political parties and social organisations to distribute masks at public places in Delhi.
The hard line by the government came after days of pleas. As the virus rampaged across a city weakened by sliding mercury and an envelope of smoke, Kejriwal had repeatedly appealed to people with folded hands to wear masks and maintain safety norms.
But the mad rush of the festive season had prevailed, pushing the daily tally of fresh cases and fatalities to record highs each week since the beginning of November.
Over the last weeks, to grapple with the surge that had once crossed the 8,000/day mark, the Centre has flown in para-medical personnel and increased the number of beds in hospitals.
At the press conference on Thursday this afternoon, Kejriwal said arrangements are being made for over 1,400 ICU beds, “including 663 in Delhi government hospitals and 750 at Centre-run facilities”.
The number of non-ICU beds for Covid patients in private hospitals will be raised from 50 per cent to 60 per cent. The decision to reserve 80 per cent ICU beds in private hospitals for COVID-19 patients has been implemented starting on Thursday, he added.
On Wednesday evening, health ministry data showed that over the previous 24 hours, the national capital had logged 7,486 new coronavirus cases, taking the infection tally in the city to over 5 lakh. Data also showed that the number of fatalities recorded was 131 — the highest single-day count in Delhi till date, pushing the number of deaths to 7,943.
Kejriwal, who earlier ruled away a fresh phase of lockdown, has decided to shut markets that prove hotspots of coronavirus. He has also ruled out the customary dip in the capital’s water bodies during Chhat puja, saying he “can’t let the people take a dip together, one infected person can infect the water, everybody”.
Earlier, the chief minister held an all-party meeting where he appealed for a united effort to fight the pandemic. “It is not the time for politics, there is an entire lifetime for it. We should set aside politics and allegations for a few days. This is the time to serve people,” he said.