Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said that his government was allowing self-employed people including domestic help, those involved in laundry services, technicians, electricians and plumbers to operate in the national capital from Monday, when the third phase of the national lockdown over the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) kicks in with considerable relaxations.
The Delhi government released its implementation strategy over the guidelines released by the Union home ministry, with Kejriwal saying that the Capital will follow the lockdown restrictions enforced by the Centre. He, however, urged the central government to lift restrictions in the Capital’s areas that have largely remained unaffected by the disease. The Union government announced on Friday that the lockdown, necessitated by the infectious outbreak, was being extended by two weeks till May 17.
Detailing the Delhi government’s plan at a news briefing on Sunday, Kejriwal said: “Self-employed people – technicians, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, sanitation staff, people working as domestic help, laundry, dhobis – people like these the permission to work.”
The Delhi CM also said print and electronic media, IT-related services, call centres, data centres, warehousing services, cold storages, private security firms and industrial estates with access control will also be allowed to remain open. Elevator technicians, AC mechanics, vehicle mechanics, generator mechanics and TV mechanics will also be allowed to work from Monday. The Delhi chief minister on March 23 announced a complete lockdown in the Capital to contain Covid-19, which has severely hit metropolises across the world, days before the central government announced similar restrictions across the nation.
While public health experts say the lockdown was needed to control the disease from spiralling out of control, there have been concerns over stalling economic activity. Kejriwal said on Sunday Delhi was reporting heavy revenue losses and it was important to reopen areas largely outside the spectre of the pathogen to ensure people don’t travel back to their hometowns because of the lack of employment. Currently, there are 94containment zones in the national capital.
The Delhi CM said that people were losing jobs and traders were suffering because there was no business. He, however, reiterated the Centre’s rule on people not being allowed to step out of their homes for non-essential activities from 7pm to 7am.
Kejriwal said government offices and private facilities with 33% staff will open from Monday but the suspension of travel by air, metro and bus will continue. Delivery of essential goods through e-commerce portals will continue in the national capital, he said.
“Malls, cinemas, salons, market complexes and Delhi Metro will remain shut while shops selling essentials will continue will be open,” he said, adding that 50 people will be allowed in marriage function. Movement of individuals and vehicles is allowed only for permitted activities, with a maximum of two persons (besides the driver) in four-wheeler vehicles, and with no pillion rider in the case of two-wheelers.
Shortly after Kejriwal’s announcement, residents’ welfare associations (RWAs) in Delhi said they were open to letting electricians and plumbers enter the residential complexes, but expressed concern over domestic help resuming work.
Rajiv Kakria, convener, Save Our City campaign, said the Delhi government’s decision came just a day after the city reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases in a single day. “If the government ensures that the situation is conducive and there are zero movements from containment zones, then it can be eased. But it is better to wait and see how the situation pans out,” he said. “Domestic help work in at least 5-6 households… It is risky, especially now when the cases are spiralling up,” he added.
Madhur Srivastava, RWA president, Sector-4 DDA colony of Dwarka, said: “We have a designated electrician, plumber and a person who irons clothes. We used to allow residents to use services from outside but that will strictly be banned now.”
The Delhi government, RWAs say, has allowed self-employed people to work but without making any provision for their commute. “Public transport is not allowed, then how will they come?” said Atul Goyal, president URJA, a united front of a group RWAs in Delhi.
Reacting to the latest relaxations, Dr Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said: “When these people come for one, they should ensure to wear a mask while working and wash their hands before starting the work. If there are elderly people or children at home, then they should be kept away as chances of them contracting the infection are high in case the domestic help is infected but asymptomatic.”
Dr Jugal Kishore, head of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, welcomed the government’s decision to allow self-employed people working as domestic help. “This decision will help both, as there are people, especially the elderly, who are finding it difficult to manage the household without any help. It will also provide financial stability to domestic help. People should teach them how to protect themselves from the disease.”