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India urges caution as cities gradually reopen

India's capital New Delhi is preparing for its coronavirus infection to peak at around 37,000 cases daily in the coming days as the city begins to ease restrictions, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday.

Delhi, which has been under a lockdown since April 19, is set to gradually restart business activities that were so far limited to essential items.

Markets and shopping malls will be allowed to open, with shops with odd house numbers and those with even operating on alternate days.

Offices can open with half of the workforce in person and the Delhi Metro is to resume services with half of its seating capacity. Last week the city allowed construction sites and factories to reopen.

"…The Covid-19 situation is still under control, and we have less than 500 fresh cases in the last 24 hours," Kejriwal said in a news conference.

"It is important to bring the economy back on track… As and when the situation keeps improving, more relaxations will be announced…" he added. The minister still urged people to work from home where possible.

Maharashtra and Gujarat eases COVID measures

Delhi, which faced a dire oxygen shortage in April and May, is also building up an oxygen storage capacity of 420 tons. The city will also set up genome sequencing labs to study the new variants, Kejriwal said.

Other Indian states have also started easing restrictions, as COVID cases continued to decline. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh will only have night curfews in many of its districts.

From Monday, the city of Mumbai is to open stand-alone shops and malls, theaters and restaurants with 50% capacity. Offices in the finance hub can open as well as parks.

Public transport is run only for essential services and medical workers.

Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, would allow malls, movie theaters and restaurants to operate in areas with low cases.

Gujarat state, meanwhile, has allowed the reopening of the public sector and private businesses, with some recreational activities also approved.

Southern Tamil Nadu state has allowed grocery shops to remain open for most of the day.

India faces vaccine shortage

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

The country's vaccination drive is making slow progress due to shortages and disagreements between the central government and state authorities.

Some 180 million people, about 14% of the population, have received one dose of a COVID vaccine and 45 million, or 3.4%, have received two shots.

mvb/mm (dpa, AFP)


Updated : 2021-06-25 09:46 GMT+08:00