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Delhi again

Pollution levels and virus loads have been rising in these towns as well, and it is incumbent on authorities to address the problem holistically.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Delhi may have itself to blame, substantially if not fully, for its predicament with regard to increased coronavirus afflictions that have made it the focus of the world’s attention and forced interventions such as air-dropping of medical professionals and frenzied creation of additional facilities.

For the fact is that citizens of the national capital have been visibly foolhardy in flouting public health protocols and have thronged marketplaces with the same impunity that they displayed in ignoring the ban on firecrackers.

Worse, they have actively participated in engineering the sort of fixes that make a mockery of rules.

The cap on wedding guests ~ of 200 per weddings and congregations ~ was flouted, for instance, by booking two or even three adjacent spaces in hotels and convention centres in different names to expand the guest list to 400 or even 600.

That this could not have been done without the active collusion of hoteliers is neither here nor there; the fact that such instances have been commonplace makes it all the more essential to clamp down on gatherings with severity as the wedding season approaches its winter peak.

The Delhi government’s proposal to cut down the size of gatherings and to control traffic at markets thus couldn’t have come a day sooner. Having said that, it must also fairly be admitted that the onset of winter annually sees increased cases of the flu, in part because of change in temperatures but also because of greater pollution.

In the circumstances that prevail, this would lead to more people with coughs and colds getting themselves tested, and if epidemiologists are correct in assessing that a significant chunk of the populace is already carrying the virus this would consequentially lead to higher numbers of Covid-positive cases.

Authorities have ruled out a lockdown, saying that might be counter-productive, which it may well be if loopholes continue to be exploited in the manner that they have. But some restrictions are necessary, including stricter adherence to safety protocols such as mandatorily wearing masks in public and stiffer penalties if they are flouted. But as is often the case, it is Delhi that seems to attract attention, while towns adjoining it do not merit similar interest.

Pollution levels and virus loads have been rising in these towns as well, and it is incumbent on authorities to address the problem holistically.

Not doing so would open the Union government to the charge of playing to the political gallery. With encouraging signs of a vaccine having emerged, it is incumbent upon residents of the national capital to exercise greater caution.

For if Delhi pulls rank to get first access to the vaccine, as it does in other matters, it may have to remain vigilant for a shorter time than other parts of the country.