New Delhi, Feb 4 (PTI) Relaxing COVID-19 restrictions further in view of a dip in the number of cases, the Delhi government decided on Friday to reopen schools in phases, starting with classes 9-12 from next week, colleges, gymnasiums and spas, and exempted drivers travelling alone in cars from wearing face masks.
At its meeting chaired by Lieutenant Governor (LG) Anil Baijal, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) also reduced the duration of the night curfew by an hour. The curfew will now be effective from 11 pm instead of 10 pm. Restaurants can also operate till 11 pm.
All offices can now operate with 100 per cent capacity, while swimming, coaching and yoga institutes will also be reopened in the national capital. The DDMA also gave its nod to organising business-to-business exhibitions.
According to an order issued by the DDMA, all the relaxations except the reopening of schools and colleges for which specific dates have been given, will come into force with immediate effect. It also allowed private offices to function with 100 per cent attendance, but advised them to follow the work-from-home practice as far as possible.
The phase-wise relaxations come as the number of Covid cases in the national capital has been declining after touching a record high of 28,867 on January 13. The case positivity rate dropped to 4.3 per cent on Thursday. The city had recorded a positivity rate of 30.6 per cent on January 14.
Addressing an online media briefing, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said schools for classes 9-12 will reopen from Monday and for nursery to Class 8 from February 14, even as the classes will continue in a hybrid mode. Teachers who are not vaccinated will not be allowed to come to schools.
While the Centre has dropped the mandatory parental consent for students to physically attend schools from its guidelines and left it to the states, the Delhi government has decided to continue with it.
There is no cap of 50 per cent student strength and the schools will be free to decide the proportion of students based on their infrastructure so that the Covid protocols are followed.
Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, said the DDMA has decided to allow reopening of colleges, ITI and polytechnic institutes from Monday, making it clear that higher education will take place in the offline mode only.
“Easing these Covid restrictions will help us bring lives back on track and in recouping the losses witnessed during the lockdown,” he said.
In another important decision, the DDMA exempted drivers travelling alone in vehicles from wearing masks. It comes three days after the Delhi High Court termed a Delhi government order making it compulsory to wear a mask while driving alone “absurd” and asked why the decision was still prevailing.
“It is a Delhi government order, why don’t you withdraw it? It is absurd actually. You are sitting in your own car and you must wear a mask?” the court had said.
After the DDMA meeting, the LG said in a tweet: “While appreciating the efforts put in by all agencies in the management of Covid-19 in Delhi, emphasised the need to maintain continued vigil and not to lower the guard, while focussing on enhancing vaccination coverage and ensuring enforcement of Covid protocols.” The owners of various gyms welcomed the city government’s decision to allow the reopening of their establishments and said it will help “five lakh families” survive the pandemic.
“This is now a fight for survival for the gym owners. We request that gyms should be kept out of the yellow zone (of the Graded Response Action Plan) as this decision impacts over five lakh people in the national capital. We request the authorities to also waive the fixed charges for electricity and water to help the gym owners survive these tough times,” said Chirag Sethi, vice president of the Delhi Gym Association.
He also promised that the gym owners will ensure that the Covid protocols are followed and everyone in a gym will be mandated to comply with the safety norms.
School principals also welcomed the decision to reopen schools following a prolonged closure and expressed hope that there will be no further disruption in learning, while a section of parents was sceptical about the schools reopening for junior classes.
The Action Committee of Unaided Private Schools said the reopening of schools for classes 9-12 is welcome but the decision is disappointing as well.
“Schools should have been reopened for all classes and all levels, irrespective of the vaccine status or any other factor,” it said.
At its last meeting, the DDMA had scrapped the weekend curfew and allowed bars and restaurants to function at 50 per cent of their seating capacity. PTI SLB VIT GJS KND BUN RC
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Source: The Print