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Indian states begin easing COVID-19 lockdowns as case numbers decline

Indian states begin easing COVID-19 lockdowns as case numbers decline

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker collects a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test swab sample from a man as others watch, at a temporary shelter for the homeless in New Delhi, India, March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI: Some of India's states are easing lockdown restrictions as coronavirus infections subside, with the world's second-most populous nation on Saturday (Jun 5) logging its lowest daily case count in nearly two months.

The national capital territory of Delhi, the seat of India's federal government, was among those relaxing restrictions and will allow shops to open on alternate days. 

Shops with even numbers will open on one day while those with odd numbers will open the next day. Private offices will also now be allowed to operate at 50 per cent of normal staffing levels. 

Delhi Metro will also resume services at 50 per cent capacity. 

The easing comes after Delhi allowed construction sites and factories to reopen last week.

"They have been open for a week but the COVID-19 situation is still under control, and we have less than 500 fresh cases in the last 24 hours," Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in an online news conference.

"It is important to bring the economy back on track now that the COVID-19 situation improving. We pray that the situation remains the same."

Delhi reported about 400 new infections Saturday, down from about 25,000 daily cases when the lockdown was announced seven weeks earlier.

"The coronavirus situation in Delhi is slowly getting better," Kejriwal said as he announced that the state will build oxygen storage capacity of 420 tonnes.

Hospitals in Delhi had struggled to provide oxygen cylinders and beds to patients as infections surged but that wave began subsiding from the middle of last month.

Kejriwal said the state would in future be prepared to deal with 37,000 new cases a day. Its peak thus far was 28,395 new infections on Apr 20.

READ: In rural India, fear of testing and vaccines hampers COVID-19 fight

In northern Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, only night curfew restrictions remain for 55 of its 75 districts.

"Districts which have positive cases under 600 have been given permission to open but with restrictions, while cities with over 600 positive cases will be under lockdown till the next order," a local government spokesperson said.

Daily infections reported across India have dropped to about 120,000 from more than 400,000 in May, according to official statistics.

Deaths have also fallen, with 3,380 reported in the previous 24 hours, although this is widely seen as a major underestimate.

The government of Maharashtra state, which includes India's economic powerhouse Mumbai, announced a five-level plan to ease restrictions depending on infection rates and hospital bed occupancy.

In level-one areas - with infection rates below 5 per cent and hospital bed occupancy below 25 per cent - all shops, restaurants and malls will be allowed to reopen.

But level-five districts - with infection rates over 20 per cent - will remain under severe movement restrictions.

READ: What is the 'black fungus' that is hitting India's COVID-19 patients?

In Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat, all government and private offices will be allowed to operate fully staffed from Jun 7, instead of the current restriction of 50 per cent.

The Gujarat government has also eased restrictions on commercial activities, allowing shops in 36 cities to remain open for longer.

In eastern Odisha state, lockdowns have been eased in three districts thanks to a decline in coronavirus cases while the southern state of Tamil Nadu now allows grocery retailers to open for most of the day and has permitted offices to operate with 30 per cent capacity. 

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Source: Reuters/afp


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