Coronavirus: Delhi ramps up preventive measures

As New Delhi scrambles to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, protesters in the Shaheen Bagh district refuse to give up their fight against a contentious citizenship law.

Mass sanitization of buses is underway at Delhi’s inter-state bus terminals. Sanitation workers wearing masks are carrying containers of disinfectant on their backs, they spray all incoming buses with chemicals.

The Delhi government under Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday restricted all gatherings to 50 people: gyms, weekly bazaars, night clubs, pubs and spas will suspend operations till March 31.

This, however, does not include weddings, even though Kejriwal urged citizens to consider postponing such events in light of the pandemic.

“I have directed all DMs, SDMs and municipal commissioners to set up portable washbasins with automatic soap dispensers in public spaces that have not yet been shut,” Kejriwal said on Twitter. “The most foolproof way to stop Coronavirus from spreading is frequent washing of hands with soap.”

This comes days after the Indian capital saw its first coronavirus-related death last week: a 68-year-old woman who died at the city’s Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital after coming in contact with her son, Delhi’s fifth case of coronavirus. He had traveled to Switzerland and Italy recently.

In order to be eligible for testing in India, you must have traveled to a country with a COVID-19 outbreak or come in contact with a confirmed or suspected case. Just showcasing symptoms is not enough to get tested.

Three hotels near the Delhi airport have been turned into “pay and use quarantine” facilities at fixed rates.

As news of the restrictions on gatherings of over 50 people spreads, the mood in northeast Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh is noticeably defiant. The epicenter of women-led protests against a controversial citizenship law, Shaheen Bagh has seen local women peacefully demonstrate against the government for over 90 continuous days.

The protesters say that they are not ready to pack up.

“Our CM has said that more than 50 people cannot gather at one place, but what about the Parliament, which is currently in session, or even weddings?” asked Shabana, a Shaheen Bagh resident who has been a part of the sit-in for three months.

“We weren’t deterred by the riots, we will not be deterred by the government’s attempt to silence us now,” she added, referring to clashes between supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and those who were against it.

“What happens to people who are living in camps after their houses were burnt? Does coronavirus not affect them?” Shabana asked, as she talked about over-crowded relief camps set up by the Delhi government and locals in northeast Delhi’s Mustafabad.

The women at Shaheen Bagh, however, are taking measures to avoid the virus. Awareness camps are being held so that women check their body temperature and report any health issues. Those exhibiting symptoms are asked by the community to self-quarantine.

The protesters try to wash their hands regularly, and small bottles of sanitizers can be seen getting passed amongst the crowd.

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