India reopens markets, malls, worship places

India reopens markets, malls, worship places
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People wearing masks enjoy shopping on Monday inside a mall in New Delhi as India eases lockdown restrictions that were imposed to slow the spreadof virus. (Reuters)
India reopens markets, malls, worship places
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Visitors wearing facemasks use the escalators at the Ambience mall as places of religious worship, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls are allowed to operate again after more than two months of lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in New Delhi on June 8, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 09 June 2020

India reopens markets, malls, worship places

India reopens markets, malls, worship places
  • More than 10,000 infections reported daily as outbreak spikes

NEW DELHI: After more than 70 days of a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, India has allowed malls, major markets, restaurants and places of worship to reopen, but an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases across the country has forced retailers to keep their shutters down.

The decision to open the business centers comes as India witnesses a spike in coronavirus cases, with more than 10,000 new cases registered daily.
“There is a strong sense of fear among the business community. They are not feeling comfortable because of the speed with which coronavirus is spreading,” Vipin Ahuja, president of the Confederation of All India Traders, told Arab News.
“The situation in New Delhi hospitals is so bad that people are dying due to a lack of beds. People don’t want to take the risk of coming to markets, getting infected and suffering,” he said.
The trade body chief said that the government had “mismanaged the World Health Organization fight against coronavirus because of lack of planning and proper execution of the lockdown strategy,” pushing the country to a stage “where both life and livelihoods are at stake.”
Some prominent shopping malls in the Indian capital opened on Monday after 76 days of lockdown, but received few customers.
“The shopping center has introduced subtle changes in design and layout across entrances and public spaces. Crowd control and footfalls will be kept as outlined by the government across the premises, public spaces and retail outlets to ensure that social distancing norms can be followed correctly,” a spokesperson for a New Delhi-based shopping mall Select City Walk said.
However, the move to reopen has been met with public skepticism.
“I am not sure whether or not this opening is the right thing. The economy and livelihoods are at stake so opening is required, but on the other hand this will lead to the uncontrolled spread of coronavirus,” Noida-based digital consultant Apoorv Durga told Arab News.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went into self-quarantine on Monday after developing a mild fever and cough.
“He (Kejriwal) has a fever and sore throat, which happen to be COVID-19 symptoms, so doctors have advised him to take a test tomorrow,” said Raghav Chadha, a spokesperson for Kejriwal’s party.
New Delhi’s medical infrastructure has been stretched thin over past weeks, with a dramatic rise in COVID-19 patients pushing it to the brink of collapse.
The city accounts for almost 30,000 cases of the virus, and the death of almost 800 people.
There is fear that the virus has reached the stage of community transmission. The local government said on Monday that it would alter its strategy if it happened.
“I am meeting State Disaster Management Authority and experts on Tuesday. If it shows that there has been community spread in New Delhi, we will change the entire strategy,” Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia told media on Monday.
Medical professionals have expressed concern over the speed with which the government is reopening markets at a time when coronavirus is assuming “dangerous proportions in the country.”
Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, president of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum said: “The government should have found another way out open businesses. Instead of opening malls, religious places and other public places, the government should have explored other means or gone about it slowly.”
He added: “The opening of the markets is not a sign of prudence but an acceptance of the failure of the government.”
India ranks fifth in the world for the number of COVID-19 cases, with almost 270,000 reported cases. The death toll has reached 7,500.
More than 10,000 new cases are reported daily, while experts warn the situation will worsen by August and September.