The Covid-19 virus is showing no signs of relenting and the national capital reported over 100 deaths (131) for the second consecutive day -- a spike that has not been witnessed since its spread in March.
The eruption constrained the Delhi High Court to demand a status report from the AAP government.
''It is disheartening to note that the number of deaths in the national capital has climbed to 131 in a day. Funeral pyres are burning through the night, the crematoriums are overflowing. Are you conversant?" the court demanded from the Delhi government.
The court also said that the Delhi government should be alive to the fact that Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) are no longer helping because of the large number of asymptomatic persons and dwelt on the need for conducting more tests through RT-PCR for better results.
It further asked the government to ensure that there are adequate arrangements at all crematoriums for carrying out the last rites. Pulling up the Delhi Government for the deteriorating condition, the court said in exasperation: "Why were you waiting for the court's order to reduce the number of guest at the weddings, which could have been done earlier."
What followed was a knee-jerk response and a rattled Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hiked the penalty for not wearing mask in public from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000 and ordered all private hospitals in the Capital to reserve 80% of their ICU beds and 60% of the non-ICU beds for Covid-19 patients.
He has also directed all private hospitals to postpone all non-critical surgeries and focus on Covid-19 patients.
Party leaders have been asked to direct their volunteers to distribute masks across the city. Kejriwal also issued a public appeal to social and religious organisations to join in the task.
Similar directions were issued in May and June as well, when the city had witnessed the first sharp rise in Covid-19 cases but later some of these curbs were relaxed when the cases seemed to dip.
Kejriwal also urged the people to celebrate Chhath Puja at home this year. "Imagine the transmission risk at the Chhath ghats where people take a dip. We can't let the people take a dip together, one infected person can infect the entire water body. But the curbs are only at public places and we can observe the rituals at home,’’ he added.
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Haryana too have imposed such curbs, he pointed out.
On Wednesday evening, health ministry data showed that in the last 24 hours, the national capital had recorded 7,486 new coronavirus cases, taking the infection tally in the city to over 5 lakh. The number of fatalities was 131 -- the highest single-day count in Delhi till date, pushing the number of deaths to 7,943. The spike is largely being blamed on the loosening of curbs for the festival season.