Virus soars in New Delhi, fine quadrupled for mask defect

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Authorities in New Delhi on Thursday quadrupled the fine for people not wearing masks as the number of coronavirus cases explodes in the mega-city, overwhelming hospitals and cemeteries, while the government resists calls for further containment.

New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told reporters that the fine was raised to 2,000 rupees (nearly 23 euros) in the capital of more than 20 million people. Currently, the number of coronavirus cases in India is approaching nine million, making it the second most affected country in the world after the United States.

“When words aren’t enough, we have to get a little tougher,” Kejriwal said. New Delhi is “on a war footing”, he tweeted at the same time.

India had decreed in March containment among the strictest in the world but the government, anxious to revive the economy, has since eased the restrictions.

Few people wear the mask, especially outside the big cities, and in recent weeks the markets were packed ahead of a series of religious festivals.

Since June in Delhi, 500,000 people have been fined for not wearing a mask, 370,000 for not respecting social distancing and 3,500 for spitting. This week, the number of coronavirus cases there has exceeded half a million, with a record rise in the daily number of new cases and deaths.

More than 90% of intensive care beds equipped with ventilators in New Delhi were occupied as of Thursday, according to a government mobile phone app.

The situation is aggravated by the pollution which suffocates the capital at this time of the year.

“My father’s oxygen saturation rate dropped (…) and we rushed to the nearby hospital but there was no bed available,” says a resident, Rajeev Nigam, criticizing the “unpreparedness” From the authorities. “We ran all night from one hospital to another but it was the same story everywhere.”

Earlier this week, Mr Kejriwal limited the number of wedding guests to 50 and called on the central government to be able to shut down markets.

In one of Delhi’s main cemeteries, a gravedigger, Mohammed Shamim, laments. “I only have room for about 50 to 60 burials. And after? I don’t know, ”he told AFP.

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