New Delhi: Commuters crowded metro stations and shopping malls in India’s capital Delhi on Tuesday, prompting some doctors to warn that it could lead to a resumption of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Major Indian cities have begun easing a strict lockdown, as the number of new infections across the country fell to its lowest level in more than two months.
Disease experts and doctors have cautioned that the race to restart business as usual will stifle vaccination efforts, as only 5% of all 950 million eligible adults have been vaccinated.
Doctors say that the easing of lockdown restrictions in Delhi is worrying. City officials have said they would impose stricter restrictions if cases escalate.
Thousands died in the capital in May as oxygen supplies ran out and families took to social media to plead for hospital beds.
People paid 20 times the normal price for ambulance and security. Several people died in the parking lot and the morgue ran out of space.
Ambareesh Mithal of Max Healthcare in New Delhi said on Twitter, “Delhi’s top mall saw 19,000 crowds last weekend, as soon as it reopened. Have we gone completely insane? Wait for COVID19 to explode again – and blame the government, the hospitals, the country.”
Early on Tuesday, Delhi’s underground rail network issued an alert on Twitter about traffic and long waits, prompting angry commuters with long queues.
After five weeks of strict lockdown in Delhi, the authorities have fully reopened shops and malls and allowed restaurants with 50% seating. The suburban rail network operates with 50% capacity and offices have been partially reopened.
However, the pace of vaccination has been slow. The city government said immunization centers for people aged 18-44 would be closed from Tuesday, as doses were low.
Surgeon and leading liver transplant specialist Arvinder Singh Soin said on Twitter, “Delhi should have been unlocked more scientifically. We are inviting trouble!”
India reported 60,471 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, the lowest number since March 31. The data showed that India has reported 2,726 deaths in the same period, taking the overall death toll to 377,031.