India coronavirus: Delhi announces lockdown as Covid cases surge

·3 min read
A boy playing cricket in the closed market at Sadar Bazar wholesale market during the weekend lockdown imposed by the State government to curb again spike of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases
Delhi has turned a weekend curfew into a week-long lockdown

Indian capital Delhi has announced a week-long lockdown after a record spike in cases overwhelmed the city's healthcare system.

Government offices and essential services, such as hospitals, pharmacies and grocers, will be open during the lockdown which starts on Monday.

The city had imposed a weekend curfew but reported its highest single-day spike so far on Sunday - 24, 462 cases.

India is reeling from a deadly second wave since the start of April.

Chart showing Delhi has been reporting record single-day spikes.
Chart showing Delhi has been reporting record single-day spikes.

"There is a lack of beds in Delhi hospitals. ICU beds are nearly finished. Less than 100 ICU beds are left. There is a shortage of oxygen beds. I am not telling all this to scare you. This is the reality," Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a press conference on Monday.

While he has "always been against lockdowns", he added that but this one "will help us amplify the number of hospital beds in Delhi".

He also appealed to the city's migrant workers not to leave - last year's national lockdown saw millions of them heading back to their villages after they found themselves unemployed and running out of money.

"This was a difficult decision to take but we had no other option left," Mr Kejriwal said. "I know when lockdowns are announced, daily-wage workers suffer and lose their jobs. But I appeal to them to not leave Delhi, it's a short lockdown and we will take care of you."

India has been reporting more than 200,000 cases daily since 15 April - this is well past its peak last year, when it was averaging around 93,000 cases a day.

Deaths too have been rising. India confirmed 1,620 deaths from the virus on Sunday.

People line up to get tested for Covid-19 during a special testing camp at Chacha Nehru hospital in Geeta colony, on April 16, 2021 in New Delhi, India.
Lines are building up even at testing centres as cases surge

Maharashtra, which has India's financial hub Mumbai as its capital, remains the worst-hit state, accounting for a nearly a third of India's more than 1.9 million active cases.

But Delhi is the worst-hit city, confirming more cases daily than Mumbai in recent days.

Hospitals are struggling to accommodate Covid positive patients in Delhi and other badly hit cities such as Mumbai, Lucknow and Ahmedabad. Several states have been reporting an acute shortage of beds in Covid wards and ICUs.

Even test results are being delayed because of overwhelming demand, which, doctors say, is leading to people not getting diagnosed and treated in time.

Experts say the Indian government ignored warnings of a second wave and did little to prevent it or even contain it - they point to cricket matches attended by unmasked crowds, massive election rallies that appeared to flout basic Covid safety rules and a huge Hindu festival where millions congregated on the banks of the Ganges river earlier this month to take a holy dip.

Buoyed by a sharp dip in case numbers and the start of the vaccination drive, India began the year on what appeared to be a normal note. But things soon took a turn for the worse as people began leaving home more, wearing masks less and socialising in larger groups. The entry of variants and a lag in the vaccination drive only drove up infections further, experts say.

Within weeks, India shot to the top of the world's Covid chart, recording more cases daily than any other country.